It has been proposed that ovale malaria in humans is caused by two closely related but distinct species of malaria parasite, Plasmodium ovale curtisi and Plasmodium ovale wallikeri. It was recently shown that these two parasite types are sympatric at the country level. However, it remains possible that localised geographic, temporal or ecological barriers exist within endemic countries which prevent recombination between the genomes of the two species. Here, using conventional and real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) methods specifically designed to discriminate P. o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri, it is shown that both species are present among clinic attendees in Congo-Brazzaville, and occur simultaneously both in lake-side and inland districts in Uganda and on Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. Thus P. o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri in these localities are exactly sympatric in both time and space. These findings are consistent with the existence of a biological barrier, rather than geographical or ecological factors, preventing recombination between P. o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri. In cross-sectional surveys carried out in Uganda and Bioko, our results show that infections with P. ovale spp. are more common than previously thought, occurring at a frequency of 1-6% in population samples, with both proposed species contributing to ovale malaria in six sites. Malaria elimination programmes in Africa need to include strategies for control of P. o. curtisi and P. o. wallikeri.
Copyright © 2011 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.