Population genomic evidence of structured and connected Plasmodium vivax populations under host selection in Latin America.

Johanna Helena Kattenberg, Pieter Monsieurs, Julie De Meyer, Katlijn De Meulenaere, Erin Sauve, Thaís C de Oliveira, Marcelo U Ferreira, Dionicia Gamboa, Anna Rosanas-Urgell

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Pathogen genomic epidemiology has the potential to provide a deep understanding of population dynamics, facilitating strategic planning of interventions, monitoring their impact, and enabling timely responses, and thereby supporting control and elimination efforts of parasitic tropical diseases. Plasmodium vivax, responsible for most malaria cases outside Africa, shows high genetic diversity at the population level, driven by factors like sub-patent infections, a hidden reservoir of hypnozoites, and early transmission to mosquitoes. While Latin America has made significant progress in controlling Plasmodium falciparum, it faces challenges with residual P. vivax. To characterize genetic diversity and population structure and dynamics, we have analyzed the largest collection of P. vivax genomes to date, including 1474 high-quality genomes from 31 countries across Asia, Africa, Oceania, and America. While P. vivax shows high genetic diversity globally, Latin American isolates form a distinctive population, which is further divided into sub-populations and occasional clonal pockets. Genetic diversity within the continent was associated with the intensity of transmission. Population differentiation exists between Central America and the North Coast of South America, vs. the Amazon Basin, with significant gene flow within the Amazon Basin, but limited connectivity between the Northwest Coast and the Amazon Basin. Shared genomic regions in these parasite populations indicate adaptive evolution, particularly in genes related to DNA replication, RNA processing, invasion, and motility - crucial for the parasite's survival in diverse environments. Understanding these population-level adaptations is crucial for effective control efforts, offering insights into potential mechanisms behind drug resistance, immune evasion, and transmission dynamics.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere11103
Pages (from-to)e11103
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2024


  • Plasmodium vivax
  • genomic epidemiology
  • natural selection
  • parasitology
  • phylogeography
  • population dynamics


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