The research, published today (22 August) in Science, comes from the first network of African scientists, the Plasmodium Diversity Network Africa (PDNA), to work with genomic tools to study the diversity of malaria parasites across the continent. In collaboration with the Wellcome Sanger Institute, the researchers studied the genetic diversity of P. falciparum populations endemic to several countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Ethiopia and Ghana. Genomic surveillance data will help to track the emergence and spread of drug-resistant strains, assisting efforts to eliminate malaria.
Malaria remains a global problem, with the deadliest parasite species P. falciparum prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa. Between 2000 and 2015, an ongoing drive to eliminate the disease has seen worldwide malaria deaths halve from 864,000 to 429,000 per year. In 2015, 92 per cent of global malaria deaths were in Africa, with 74 per cent of these occurring in children under five years of age. But the findings of a new study suggest this progress may be at risk if new forms of treatment aren't developed.
Population - P - Falciparum - Parasites - Africa
Although the population of P. falciparum parasites in sub-Saharan Africa is extremely genetically diverse, previous research suggested that this diversity was relatively similar across the continent. It was also thought that the flow of genetic material tended to be from east to west, with resistance to antimalarial drugs believed to originate in South East Asia.
The results of this new study indicate, however, that P. falciparum parasites are genetically distinct according to which region of Africa they are found. Furthermore, researchers found that these regional populations are sharing genetic material in all directions -- including genes that can confer resistance to antimalarial drugs, with new types of drug resistance emerging in different parts of Africa. It is thought human migration, including that resulting from colonial activity, has played a part in the evolution...
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