Rapid Turnover of Plasmodium falciparum Populations in Asymptomatic Individuals Living in a High Transmission Area

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  • Laboratory of Biomedical Parasitology and Unit of Experimental Parasitology, Pasteur Institute, Institut Francais de Recherche Scientifique pour le Development en Cooperation (ORSTOM) and Pasteur Institute, Paris, France

A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) typing technique, based on the amplification of polymorphic regions from the merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP-1) and MSP-2 Plasmodium falciparum genes, was used to characterize parasites collected in a longitudinal study of asymptomatic carriers of malaria parasites living in two distinct epidemiologic situations. Blood samples were collected from children and adults living in the village of Dielmo, Senegal, when malaria transmission was 3–6 infective bites/week/individual. For each individual, every sample collected at two-week intervals over a period of three months showed a specific PCR pattern. Changes involved both appearance and disappearance of specific alleles. Analysis of blood samples collected at a few-days interval showed that modifications of the PCR patterns occurred rapidly. Most alleles were detected over a period of 2–3 weeks, but some alleles could be detected only for a few days. The frequent modifications of the PCR patterns indicate significant changes in allelic balance over time, and importantly, this was observed both in children and adults. These results strongly contrast with the stability of the parasite types harbored by asymptomatic individuals living in Pikine, Senegal during a period in which malaria transmission was interrupted, and therefore suggest that the rapid turnover observed in Dielmo may reflect the introduction of new parasite populations by mosquitoes.