Venezuela had the highest number of human malaria cases in Latin American before 1936. During 1891–1920,malaria was endemic to >600,000 km2 of this country; malaria death rates led to major population decreases during 1891–1920. No pathogen, including the influenza virus that caused the 1918 pandemic, caused more deaths than malaria during 1905–1945. Early reports of malaria eradication in Venezuela helped spark the world's interest in global eradication. We describe early approaches to malaria epidemiology in Venezuela and how this country developed an efficient control program and an approach to eradication.Arnoldo Gabaldón was a key policy maker during this development process. He directed malaria control in Venezuela from the late 1930s to the end of the 1970s and contributed to malaria program planning of the World Health Organization.We discuss how his efforts helped reduce the incidence of malaria in Venezuela and how his approach diverged from World Health Organization guidelines.
Plasmodium vivax is the most prevalent human malaria parasite in the Americas. Previous studies have contrasted the genetic diversity of parasite populations in the Americas with those in Asia and Oceania, concluding that New World populations exhibit low genetic diversity consistent with a recent introduction. Here we used an expanded sample of complete mitochondrial genome sequences to investigate the diversity of P. vivax in the Americas as well as in other continental populations. We show that the diversity of P. vivax in the Americas is comparable to that in Asia and Oceania, and we identify several divergent clades circulating in South America that may have resulted from independent introductions. In particular, we show that several haplotypes sampled in Venezuela and northeastern Brazil belong to a clade that diverged from the other P. vivax lineages at least 30,000 years ago, albeit not necessarily in the Americas. We propose that, unlike in Asia where human migration increases local genetic diversity, the combined effects of the geographical structure and the low incidence of vivax malaria in the Americas has resulted in patterns of low local but high regional genetic diversity. This could explain previous views that P. vivax in the Americas has low genetic diversity because these were based on studies carried out in limited areas. Further elucidation of the complex geographical pattern of P. vivax variation will be important both for diversity assessments of genes encoding candidate vaccine antigens and in the formulation of control and surveillance measures aimed at malaria elimination.
Plasmodium vivax infections remain a major source of malaria-related morbidity and mortality. Early and accurate diagnosis is an integral component of effective malaria control programs. Conventional molecular diagnostic methods provide accurate results but are often resource-intensive, expensive, have a long turnaround time and are beyond the capacity of most malaria-endemic countries. Our laboratory has recently developed a new platform called RealAmp, which combines loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) with a portable tube scanner real-time isothermal instrument for the rapid detection of malaria parasites. Here we describe new primers for the detection of P. vivax using the RealAmp method. Three pairs of amplification primers required for this method were derived from a conserved DNA sequence unique to the P. vivax genome. The amplification was carried out at 64°C using SYBR Green or SYTO-9 intercalating dyes for 90 minutes with the tube scanner set to collect fluorescence signals at 1-minute intervals. Clinical samples of P. vivax and other human-infecting malaria parasite species were used to determine the sensitivity and specificity of the primers by comparing with an 18S ribosomal RNA-based nested PCR as the gold standard. The new set of primers consistently detected laboratory-maintained isolates of P. vivax from different parts of the world. The primers detected P. vivax in the clinical samples with 94.59% sensitivity (95% CI: 87.48-98.26%) and 100% specificity (95% CI: 90.40-100%) compared to the gold standard nested-PCR method. The new primers also proved to be more sensitive than the published species-specific primers specifically developed for the LAMP method in detecting P. vivax.
Accurate and rapid diagnosis of malaria infections is crucial for implementing species-appropriate treatment and saving lives. Molecular diagnostic tools are the most accurate and sensitive method of detecting Plasmodium, differentiating between Plasmodium species, and detecting subclinical infections. Despite available whole-genome sequence data for Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax, the majority of PCR-based methods still rely on the 18S rRNA gene targets. Historically, this gene has served as the best target for diagnostic assays. However, it is limited in its ability to detect mixed infections in multiplex assay platforms without the use of nested PCR. New diagnostic targets are needed. Ideal targets will be species specific, highly sensitive, and amenable to both single-step and multiplex PCRs. We have mined the genomes of P. falciparum and P. vivax to identify species-specific, repetitive sequences that serve as new PCR targets for the detection of malaria. We show that these targets (Pvr47 and Pfr364) exist in 14 to 41 copies and are more sensitive than 18S rRNA when utilized in a single-step PCR. Parasites are routinely detected at levels of 1 to 10 parasites/?l. The reaction can be multiplexed to detect both species in a single reaction. We have examined 7 P. falciparum strains and 91 P. falciparum clinical isolates from Tanzania and 10 P. vivax strains and 96 P. vivax clinical isolates from Venezuela, and we have verified a sensitivity and specificity of ?100% for both targets compared with a nested 18S rRNA approach. We show that bioinformatics approaches can be successfully applied to identify novel diagnostic targets and improve molecular methods for pathogen detection. These novel targets provide a powerful alternative molecular diagnostic method for the detection of P. falciparum and P. vivax in conventional or multiplex PCR platforms.
Molecular tools are valuable for determining evolutionary history and the prevalence of drug-resistant malaria parasites. These tools have helped to predict decreased sensitivity to antimalarials and fixation of multidrug resistance genotypes in some regions. In order to assess how historical drug policies impacted Plasmodium falciparum in Venezuela, we examined molecular changes in genes associated with drug resistance. We examined pfmdr1 and pfcrt in samples from Sifontes, Venezuela, and integrated our findings with earlier work describing dhfr and dhps in these samples. We characterized pfmdr1 genotypes and copy number variation, pfcrt genotypes, and proximal microsatellites in 93 samples originating from surveillance from 2003 to 2004. Multicopy pfmdr1 was found in 12% of the samples. Two pfmdr1 alleles, Y184F/N1042D/D1246Y (37%) and Y184F/S1034C/N1042D/D1246Y (63%), were found. These alleles share ancestry, and no evidence of strong selective pressure on mutations was found. pfcrt chloroquine resistance alleles are fixed with two alleles: S(tct)VMNT (91%) and S(agt)VMNT (9%). These alleles are associated with strong selection. There was also an association between pfcrt, pfmdr1, dhfr, and dhps genotypes/haplotypes. Duplication of pfmdr1 suggests a potential shift in mefloquine sensitivity in this region, which warrants further study. A bottleneck occurred in P. falciparum in Sifontes, Venezuela, and multidrug resistance genotypes are present. This population could be targeted for malaria elimination programs to prevent the possible spread of multidrug-resistant parasites.
Malaria parasites infecting host red blood cells degrade hemoglobin by detoxifying heme into hemozoin. This conversion of heme to hemozoin is performed by a potent protein called heme detoxification protein (HDP), making HDP an attractive target for antimalarial drug development. We studied the genetic variation in Plasmodium falciparum HDP and also investigated if HDP due to its involvement in the heme detoxification pathway is under any potential chloroquine (CQ) selection pressure. We sequenced the complete HDP gene encompassing three exons and two introns (AT and ATTT repeats in intron 1; AT repeats in intron 2) from five P. falciparum laboratory strains with known CQ sensitivity and 50 field isolates from Venezuela (n=26) and Kenya (n=24), with high levels of CQ resistance. Sequencing revealed two mutations, C41F and F91L in exon 1 and exon 2, respectively. The F41 mutation was present only in the CQ sensitive (CQS) HB3 strain. However, all the isolates harbored the 91L mutation, except for the CQS 3D7 strain. The sequencing of the intron 2 region revealed no variation in the number of AT repeats. In contrast, there was a wide variation in the AT and ATTT repeats in intron 1. Overall with respect to the intron 1 repeats, the Venezuelan isolates (Expected heterozygosity, He=0.685) showed less genetic variation as compared to the Kenyan isolates (He=0.986). Furthermore, we also genotyped the 72-76 codons of the pfcrt gene but did not observe any correlation of the pfcrt CQ resistant genotypes (SVMNT or CVIET) with variation in the HDP, thus indicating HDP not to be under any CQ selection pressure. In conclusion, HDP is a conserved target for future antimalarial development.
Regardless of the growing interest in detecting population structures in malarial parasites, there have been limited discussions on how to use this concept in control programmes. In such context, the effects of the parasite population structures will depend on interventions spatial or temporal scales. This investigation explores the problem of identifying genetic markers, in this case microsatellites, to unveil Plasmodium genetic structures that could affect decisions in the context of elimination. The study was performed in a low-transmission area, which offers a good proxy to better understand problems associated with surveillance at the final stages of malaria elimination.
Suriname was a high malaria risk country before the introduction of a new five-year malaria control program in 2005, the Medical Mission Malaria Programme (MM-MP). Malaria was endemic in the forested interior, where especially the stabile village communities were affected.
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