Background: Primaquine is effective against the latent liver stage of Plasmodium vivax. Eliminating the latent liver stage of P. vivax is one of the necessary conditions to achieve the goal of malaria elimination in Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) by 2030. However, people with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency are at risk of haemolysis when ingesting primaquine. The aim of this study was to detect the prevalence of the G6PD Viangchan variant, which is said to be common in Lao PDR and which can result in severe haemolysis in patients exposed to primaquine.
Methods: Blood samples were collected from villagers in three malaria endemic provinces: Champasak and Savannakhet in the south, and Phongsaly in the north. Each blood sample was semi-quantitatively assayed for G6PD enzyme activity using the G6PD Assay Kit-WST Lyophilized (DOJINDO Laboratories, Japan). Blood samples that were found to be G6PD deficient were sequenced to detect G6PD Viangchan mutation.
Results: In total, 2043 blood samples were collected from Phongsaly (n = 426, 20.9%), Savannakhet (n = 924, 45.2%), and Champasak (n = 693, 33.9%) provinces in Lao PDR from 2016 to 2017. Of these, 964 (47.2%) were taken from male villagers and 1079 (52.8%) were taken from female villagers. G6PD Viangchan mutation was not detected in Phongsaly province in this study. In Savannakhet province, 48 of the 924 samples (45 males, 3 females) had the G6PD Viangchan mutation (n = 48, 5.2%). In Champasak province, 42 of the 693 samples (18 males, 24 females) had the G6PD Viangchan mutation (n = 42, 6.1%).
Conclusions: G6PD Viangchan variant, which can cause severe haemolysis in the carrier when exposed to primaquine, was detected among 6.1% of the villagers in Champasak and 5.2% in Savannakhet but not in Phongsaly in this study. G6PD Viangchan variant might be common in the south of Laos but not so in the north. In the north, other G6PD deficiency variants might be more prevalent. However, in order not to overlook anyone and ensure a safe primaquine therapy for people living in malaria endemic areas in Lao PDR, G6PD testing is necessary.
Keywords: Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency; Laos; Malaria elimination; Plasmodium vivax.