Background: The clinical presentation of malaria, considered as the result of a complex interaction between parasite and human genetics, is described to be different between rural and urban areas. The analysis of the Plasmodium falciparum genetic diversity in children with uncomplicated malaria, living in these two different areas, may help to understand the effect of urbanization on the distribution of P. falciparum genotypes.
Methods: Isolates collected from 75 and 89 children with uncomplicated malaria infection living in a rural and an urban area of Burkina Faso, respectively, were analysed by a nested PCR amplification of msp1 and msp2 genes to compare P. falciparum diversity.
Results: The K1 allelic family was widespread in children living in the two sites, compared to other msp1 allelic families (frequency >90%). The MAD 20 allelic family of msp1 was more prevalent (p = 0.0001) in the urban (85.3%) than the rural area (63.2%). In the urban area, the 3D7 alleles of msp2 were more prevalent compared to FC27 alleles, with a high frequency for the 3D7 300bp allele (>30%). The multiplicity of infection was in the range of one to six in the urban area and of one to seven in the rural area. There was no difference in the frequency of multiple infections (p = 0.6): 96.0% (95% C.I: 91.6-100) in urban versus 93.1% (95%C.I: 87.6-98.6) in rural areas. The complexity of infection increased with age [p = 0.04 (rural area), p = 0.06 (urban area)].
Conclusion: Urban-rural area differences were observed in some allelic families (MAD20, FC27, 3D7), suggesting a probable impact of urbanization on genetic variability of P. falciparum. This should be taken into account in the implementation of malaria control measures.