Background: Although autochthonous malaria cases are no longer reported in Anhui Province, China, imported malaria has become a major health concern. The proportion of reported malaria cases caused by Plasmodium ovale spp. increased to levels higher than expected during 2012 to 2019, and showed two peaks, 19.69% in 2015 and 19.35% in 2018.
Methods: A case-based retrospective study was performed using data collected from the China Information System for Disease Control and Prevention (CISDCP) and Information System for Parasitic Disease Control and Prevention (ISPDCP) from 2012 to 2019 to assess the trends and differences between Plasmodium ovale curtisi (P. o. curtisi) and Plasmodium ovale wallikeri (P. o. wallikeri). Epidemiological characteristics were analyzed using descriptive statistics.
Results: Plasmodium o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri were found to simultaneously circulate in 14 African countries. Among 128 patients infected with P. ovale spp., the proportion of co-infection cases was 10.16%. Six cases of co-infection with P. ovale spp. and P. falciparum were noted, each presenting with two clinical attacks (the first attack was due to P. falciparum and the second was due to P. ovale spp.) at different intervals. Accurate identification of the infecting species was achieved among only 20.00% of cases of P. ovale spp. infection. At the reporting units, 32.17% and 6.96% of cases of P. ovale spp. infection were misdiagnosed as P. vivax and P. falciparum infections, respectively.
Conclusion: The present results indicate that the potential of P. ovale spp. to co-infect with other Plasmodium species has been previously underestimated, as is the incidence of P. ovale spp. in countries where malaria is endemic. P. o. curtisi may have a long latency period of > 3 years and potentially cause residual foci, thus posing challenges to the elimination of malaria in P. ovale spp.-endemic areas. Considering the low rate of species identification, more sensitive point-of-care detection methods need to be developed for P. ovale spp. and introduced in non-endemic areas.