Human malaria is a complex disease that can show a wide array of clinical outcomes, from asymptomatic carriage and chronic infection to acute disease presenting various life-threatening pathologies. The specific outcome of an infection is believed to be determined by a multifactorial interplay between the host and the parasite but with a general trend toward disease attenuation with increasing prior exposure. Therefore, the main burden of malaria in a population can be understood as a function of transmission intensity, which itself is intricately linked to the prevalence of infected hosts and mosquito vectors, the distribution of infection outcomes, and the parasite population diversity. Predicting the long-term impact of malaria intervention measures therefore requires an in-depth understanding of how the parasite causes disease, how this relates to previous exposures, and how different infection pathologies contribute to parasite transmission. Here, we provide a brief overview of recent advances in the molecular epidemiology of clinical malaria and how these might prove to be influential in our fight against this important disease.
Keywords: epidemiology; infectivity; malaria; natural acquired immunity; severe disease.