Published: December 5, 2017
Fola A, Nate E, Harrison GL, Barnadas C, Hetzel MW, Iga J, Siba P, Mueller I, and Barry AE. Nationwide genetic surveillance of Plasmodium vivax in Papua New Guinea reveals heterogeneous transmission dynamics and routes of migration among subdivided populations. Infect Genet Evol, 2018; 58:83-95. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2017.11.028.
The Asia Pacific Leaders in Malaria Alliance (APLMA) have committed to eliminate malaria from the region by 2030. Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the highest malaria burden in the Asia-Pacific region but with the intensification of control efforts since 2005, transmission has been dramatically reduced and Plasmodium vivax is now the dominant malaria infection in some parts of the country. To gain a better understanding of the transmission dynamics and migration patterns of P. vivax in PNG, here we investigate population structure in eight geographically and ecologically distinct regions of the country. A total of 219 P. vivax isolates (16-30 per population) were successfully haplotyped using 10 microsatellite markers. A wide range of genetic diversity (He=0.37-0.87, Rs=3.60-7.58) and significant multilocus linkage disequilibrium (LD) was observed in six of the eight populations (IAS=0.08-0.15 p-value<0.05) reflecting a spectrum of transmission intensities across the country. Genetic differentiation between regions was evident (Jost’s D=0.07-0.72), with increasing divergence of populations with geographic distance. Overall, P. vivax isolates clustered into three major genetic populations subdividing the Mainland lowland and coastal regions, the Islands and the Highlands. P. vivax gene flow follows major human migration routes, and there was higher gene flow amongst Mainland parasite populations than among Island populations. The Central Province (samples collected in villages close to the capital city, Port Moresby), acts as a sink for imported infections from the three major endemic areas. These insights into P. vivax transmission dynamics and population networks will inform targeted strategies to contain malaria infections and to prevent the spread of drug resistance in PNG.