The zoonotic Plasmodium knowlesi parasite is the most common cause of human malaria in Malaysia. Genetic analysis has shown that the parasites are divided into three subpopulations according to their geographic origin (Peninsular or Borneo) and, in Borneo, their macaque host (Macaca fascicularis or M. nemestrina). Whilst evidence suggests that genetic exchange events have occurred between the two Borneo subpopulations, the picture is unclear in less studied Peninsular strains. One difficulty is that P. knowlesi infected individuals tend to present with low parasitaemia leading to samples with insufficient DNA for whole genome sequencing. Here, using a parasite selective whole genome amplification approach on unprocessed blood samples, we were able to analyse recent genomes sourced from both Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo. The analysis provides evidence that recombination events are present in the Peninsular Malaysia parasite subpopulation, which have acquired fragments of the M. nemestrina associated subpopulation genotype, including the DBPβ and NBPXa erythrocyte invasion genes. The NBPXb invasion gene has also been exchanged within the macaque host-associated subpopulations of Malaysian Borneo. Our work provides strong evidence that exchange events are far more ubiquitous than expected and should be taken into consideration when studying the highly complex P. knowlesi population structure.
|Number of pages||11|
|Early online date||8 Jul 2019|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 2019|