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Understanding the population genetics of Plasmodium vivax is essential for malaria control and elimination.

Arnott A, Barry AE, Reeder JC

  • Journal Malaria journal

  • Published 10 Jan 2012

  • Volume 11

  • Pagination 14

  • DOI 10.1186/1475-2875-11-14


Traditionally, infection with Plasmodium vivax was thought to be benign and self-limiting, however, recent evidence has demonstrated that infection with P. vivax can also result in severe illness and death. Research into P. vivax has been relatively neglected and much remains unknown regarding the biology, pathogenesis and epidemiology of this parasite. One of the fundamental factors governing transmission and immunity is parasite diversity. An understanding of parasite population genetic structure is necessary to understand the epidemiology, diversity, distribution and dynamics of natural P. vivax populations. In addition, studying the population structure of genes under immune selection also enables investigation of the dynamic interplay between transmission and immunity, which is crucial for vaccine development. A lack of knowledge regarding the transmission and spread of P. vivax has been particularly highlighted in areas where malaria control and elimination programmes have made progress in reducing the burden of Plasmodium falciparum, yet P. vivax remains as a substantial obstacle. With malaria elimination back on the global agenda, mapping of global and local P. vivax population structure is essential prior to establishing goals for elimination and the roll-out of interventions. A detailed knowledge of the spatial distribution, transmission and clinical burden of P. vivax is required to act as a benchmark against which control targets can be set and measured. This paper presents an overview of what is known and what is yet to be fully understood regarding P. vivax population genetics, as well as the importance and application of P. vivax population genetics studies.