Am J Trop Med Hyg 2017 Oct 19;97(4):1180-1189. Epub 2017 Jul 19.
School of BioSciences, Bio21 Institute/The University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia.
Malaria control in West Africa is impeded by the large reservoir of chronic asymptomatic infections in the human population. This study aimed to assess the extent of diversity in the reservoir in Bongo District (BD), Ghana, at the end of the dry season, the lowest point in malaria transmission over the course of the year. Analysis of the variation in 12 microsatellite loci was completed for 200 isolates collected from a cross-sectional survey of residents of all ages from two catchment areas in BD. Analysis of the multilocus haplotypes showed high levels of genetic diversity ( = 0.74), no population differentiation yet significant linkage disequilibrium (LD) ( = 0.0127, = 0.006) in BD. Multilocus LD was significant between and within catchment areas even though every haplotype in the population was unique and the majority of individuals (84.0%) harbored multiple-clone infections. The linkage structure among multilocus haplotypes was not associated with sampling location. These data provide the first study with deep sampling of the reservoir in an area of seasonal malaria transmission in West Africa. The co-occurrence of high multiplicity of infection (multiple-clone infections) with significant multilocus LD is surprising given the likelihood of high recombination rates in BD. The results suggest that the linkage structure among multilocus haplotypes has not been shaped by geographic separation of parasite populations. Furthermore, the observed LD levels provide a baseline population genetic metric with putatively neutral markers to evaluate the effects of seasonality and malaria control efforts in BD.