Background: Determination of the genetic diversity of malaria parasites can inform the intensity of transmission and identify potential deficiencies in malaria control programmes. This study was conducted to characterize the genetic diversity and allele frequencies of Plasmodium falciparum in Northwest Ethiopia along the Eritrea and Sudan border.
Methods: A total of 90 isolates from patients presenting to the local health centre with uncomplicated P. falciparum were collected from October 2014 to January 2015. DNA was extracted and the polymorphic regions of the msp-1, msp-2 and glurp loci were genotyped by nested polymerase chain reactions followed by gel electrophoresis for fragment analysis.
Results: Allelic variation in msp-1, msp-2 and glurp were identified in 90 blood samples. A total of 34 msp alleles (12 for msp-1 and 22 for msp-2) were detected. For msp-1 97.8% (88/90), msp-2 82.2% (74/90) and glurp 46.7% (42/90) were detected. In msp-1, MAD20 was the predominant allelic family detected in 47.7% (42/88) of the isolates followed by RO33 and K1. For msp-2, the frequency of FC27 and IC/3D7 were 77% (57/74) and 76% (56/74), respectively. Nine glurp RII region genotypes were identified. Seventy percent of isolates had multiple genotypes and the overall mean multiplicity of infection was 2.6 (95% CI 2.25-2.97). The heterozygosity index was 0.82, 0.62 and 0.20 for msp-1, msp-2 and glurp, respectively. There was no significant association between multiplicity of infection and age or parasite density.
Conclusions: There was a high degree of genetic diversity with multiple clones in P. falciparum isolates from Northwest Ethiopia suggesting that there is a need for improved malaria control efforts in this region.