Micro-epidemiological structuring of Plasmodium falciparum parasite populations in regions with varying transmission intensities in Africa

Omedo I, Mogeni P, Bousema T, Rockett K, Amambua-Ngwa A, Oyier I, Stevenson CJ, Baidjoe AY, de Villiers EP, Fegan G, Ross A, Hubbart C, Jeffreys A, Williams TN, Kwiatkowski D, Bejon P
Wellcome Open Res. 2017;2

Permenent descriptor

Background: The first models of malaria transmission assumed a completely mixed and homogeneous population of parasites. Recent models include spatial heterogeneity and variably mixed populations. However, there are few empiric estimates of parasite mixing with which to parametize such models. Methods: Here we genotype 276 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in 5199 P. falciparum isolates from two Kenyan sites (Kilifi county and Rachuonyo South district) and one Gambian site (Kombo coastal districts) to determine the spatio-temporal extent of parasite mixing, and use Principal Component Analysis (PCA) and linear regression to examine the relationship between genetic relatedness and distance in space and time for parasite pairs. Results: Using 107, 177 and 82 SNPs that were successfully genotyped in 133, 1602, and 1034 parasite isolates from The Gambia, Kilifi and Rachuonyo South district, respectively, we show that there are no discrete geographically restricted parasite sub-populations, but instead we see a diffuse spatio-temporal structure to parasite genotypes. Genetic relatedness of sample pairs is predicted by relatedness in space and time. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that targeted malaria control will benefit the surrounding community, but unfortunately also that emerging drug resistance will spread rapidly through the population.