Background: Malaria infection can present with a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe. Plasmodium falciparum isolates in uncomplicated and severe malaria infections may have different parasite genetic profiles. This study was conducted to assess differences in genetic diversity and allelic frequencies in P. falciparum isolates according to malaria severity and age of patients in the Gublack area, northwest Ethiopia.
Methods: Cross-sectional health facility-based study conducted in Gublak, Ethiopia between July, 2017 and October, 2017. Symptomatic P. falciparum malaria patients with microscopically-confirmed infection were enrolled. Parasite DNA was extracted from filter paper blood spots and the polymorphic regions of the msp-1 and msp-2 genes were genotyped using allele-specific nested-PCR with fragment analysis by gel electrophoresis.
Results: A total of 118 patients were enrolled including 95 (80.5%) with uncomplicated infection and 23 (19.5%) with severe disease. In msp-1, the K1 allelic family was similarly prevalent in uncomplicated 42 (44.2%) and severe disease 12 (52.2%). In msp-2, FC27 was detected in 55 (57.9%) of uncomplicated infections and IC/3D7 in 14 (60.9%) of severe infections. 76 (64.4%) of the 118 isolates contained multiple genotypes; 56 (58.9%) in uncomplicated infections and 19 (82.6%) in severe infections. The overall of multiplicity of infection was 2.2 (95% CI 1.98-2.42) with 1.4 (95% CI 1.23-1.55) and 1.7 (95% CI 1.49-1.86) for msp-1 and msp-2, respectively. Multiplicity of infection was significantly higher in severe than uncomplicated infections (3.0 (95% CI 2.61-3.47) versus 2.0 (95% CI 1.83-2.23), respectively, p = 0.001). There was no difference in multiplicity of infection across age groups (p = 0.104).
Conclusion: Patients with severe malaria were more likely to have multiclonal infections. Further studies are needed to describe the association between P. falciparum genotypes and malaria severity in different malaria transmission areas.