Status: Funded - Open
Wenqiao He, PhD
BACKGROUND: Malaria is a leading cause of global morbidity and mortality; 13% of the world's malaria deaths occur in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), mostly among children under five. Plasmodium ovale curtisi (Poc) and Plasmodium ovale wallikeri (Pow) are two distinct non-recombining species; increasing prevalence of Poc and Pow has recently been reported in Africa. GAP: While most malaria control efforts focus on P. falciparum, the parasite responsible for the majority of malaria deaths, other species such as Poc and Pow can cause severe and life-threatening syndromes, as well as relapsing infection, but remain understudied. HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesize that Poc will be more prevalent than Pow in the DRC, and factors that have significant associations with P. ovale spp. infection will be revealed. The genetic diversity and characteristics of P. ovale spp. infections in the DRC will be revealed, and relapsing infections can be identified using genomic sequencing. METHODS: Species determination (Poc vs. Pow) will be conducted for 173 P. ovale spp.-positive samples collected during a longitudinal cohort study conducted in Kinshasa Province, DRC, using our in-house duplex real-time PCR assay, followed by selective whole genome amplification (sWGA) and whole-genome sequencing, to investigate the epidemiology and genomic characteristics of Poc and Pow. RESULTS: Pending. IMPACT: Improved understanding of the prevalence, geographical distribution, and infection risks of Poc and Pow can be used to optimize malaria control efforts which currently overlook these important but neglected species, and will provide insights into how and where to deploy P. ovale radical cure regimens in the future. Our population genomic analysis will also provide insights into the evolution of P. ovale spp. in Africa, which are especially relevant to malaria elimination efforts.