Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale infections in the China-Myanmar border area

Peipei Li, Zhenjun Zhao, Hua Xing, Wenli Li, Xiaotong Zhu, Yaming Cao, Zhaoqing Yang, Jetsumon Sattabongkot, Guiyun Yan, Qi Fan, Liwang Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background: The Greater Mekong Subregion is aiming to achieve regional malaria elimination by 2030. Though a shift in malaria parasite species predominance by Plasmodium vivax has been recently documented, the transmission of the two minor Plasmodium species, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale spp., is poorly characterized in the region. This study aims to determine the prevalence of these minor species in the China-Myanmar border area and their genetic diversity. Methods: Epidemiology study was conducted during passive case detection in hospitals and clinics in Myanmar and four counties in China along the China-Myanmar border. Cross-sectional surveys were conducted in villages and camps for internally displaced persons to determine the prevalence of malaria infections. Malaria infections were diagnosed initially by microscopy and later in the laboratory using nested PCR for the SSU rRNA genes. Plasmodium malariae and P. ovale infections were confirmed by sequencing the PCR products. The P. ovale subtypes were determined by sequencing the Pocytb, Pocox1 and Pog3p genes. Parasite populations were evaluated by PCR amplification and sequencing of the MSP-1 genes. Antifolate sensitivity was assessed by sequencing the dhfr-ts and dhps genes from the P. malariae and P. ovale isolates. Results: Analysis of 2701 blood samples collected from the China-Myanmar border by nested PCR targeting the parasite SSU rRNA genes identified 561 malaria cases, including 161 Plasmodium falciparum, 327 P. vivax, 66 P. falciparum/P. vivax mixed infections, 4 P. malariae and 3 P. ovale spp. P. vivax and P. falciparum accounted for >60 and ~30% of all malaria cases, respectively. In comparison, the prevalence of P. malariae and P. ovale spp. was very low and only made up ~1% of all PCR-positive cases. Nevertheless, these two species were often misidentified as P. vivax infections or completely missed by microscopy even among symptomatic patients. Phylogenetic analysis of the SSU rRNA, Pocytb, Pocox1 and Pog3p genes confirmed that the three P. ovale spp. isolates belonged to the subtype P. ovale curtisi. Low-level genetic diversity was detected in the MSP-1, dhfr and dhps genes of these minor parasite species, potentially stemming from the low prevalence of these parasites preventing their mixing. Whereas most of the dhfr and dhps positions equivalent to those conferring antifolate resistance in P. falciparum and P. vivax were wild type, a new mutation S113C corresponding to the S108 position in pfdhfr was identified in two P. ovale curtisi isolates. Conclusions: The four human malaria parasite species all occurred sympatrically at the China-Myanmar border. While P. vivax has become the predominant species, the two minor parasite species also occurred at very low prevalence but were often misidentified or missed by conventional microscopy. These minor parasite species displayed low levels of polymorphisms in the msp-1, dhfr and dhps genes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number557
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalMalaria journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 15 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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