The population structure of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax during an epidemic of malaria in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Ivo MuellerPNG Institute of Medical Research, Goroka, Papua New Guinea. ivo@pngimr.org.pg

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Japalis KaiokPNG Institute of Medical Research, Goroka, Papua New Guinea. ivo@pngimr.org.pg

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John C ReederPNG Institute of Medical Research, Goroka, Papua New Guinea. ivo@pngimr.org.pg

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Alfred CortésPNG Institute of Medical Research, Goroka, Papua New Guinea. ivo@pngimr.org.pg

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Although most of the Papua New Guinea highlands are too high for stable malaria transmission, local epidemics are a regular feature of the region. Few detailed descriptions of such epidemics are available, however. We describe the investigation of a malaria epidemic in the Obura Valley, Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. Of the 244 samples examined by microscopy, 6.6% were positive for Plasmodium falciparum only, 9.4% were positive for Plasmodium vivax only, and 1.2% were mixed infections. MSP2 and MSP3alpha genotyping and AMA1 sequencing were used to determine the genetic variation present in a sample of P. falciparum and P. vivax infections. The P. vivax infections were found to be genetically highly diverse. In contrast, all P. falciparum samples were of a single genotype. This striking difference in genetic diversity suggests endemic, low-level local transmission for P. vivax but an outside introduction of P. falciparum as the most likely source of the epidemic.

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