Molecular epidemiology of malaria in Yaounde, Cameroon. VIII. Multiple Plasmodium falciparum infections in symptomatic patients.

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  • 1 Unité de Recherche Paludologie afro-Tropicale, Institut de Recherche pour le Développement and Laboratoire de Recherche sur le Paludisme, Organisation de Coordination pour la lutte contre les Endémies en Afrique Centrale, Yaoundé, Cameroon.

The extent of genetically distinct parasite populations coinfecting individual human hosts (i.e., multiplicity) was studied by polymerase chain reaction amplification of 3 polymorphic genetic markers, circumsporozoite protein and merozoite surface antigens (MSA) 1 and 2, in symptomatic children and adults and analyzed in relation with age and initial parasitemia. Of the total of 177 DNA samples analyzed (of which 115 were paired pre- and posttreatment samples), 101 (57%) were composed of multiclonal infections, with up to 7 distinguishable parasite populations. Among the 3 polymorphic markers, msa-2 yielded the highest proportion of clinical isolates with multiclonal populations. Patients with multiclonal infections before treatment had, on average, 2.9 genetically distinct parasite populations. The extent of multiplicity decreased significantly (P < 0.05) in recrudescent parasites, but not with reinfections, as compared with the pretreatment samples. Neither age (5-60 years) nor initial parasitemia was correlated with multiplicity. Further studies in different epidemiological settings are required to understand the role of multiclonal Plasmodium falciparum infections in influencing malaria transmission.