Next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies are increasingly being used to address a diverse range of biological and epidemiological questions. The current understanding of malaria transmission dynamics and parasite movement mainly relies on the analyses of epidemiologic data, e.g. case counts and self-reported travel history data. However, travel history data are often not routinely collected or are incomplete, lacking the necessary level of accuracy. Although genetic data from routinely collected field samples provides an unprecedented opportunity to track the spread of malaria parasites, it remains an underutilized resource for surveillance due to lack of local awareness and capacity, limited access to sensitive laboratory methods and associated computational tools and difficulty in interpreting genetic epidemiology data. In this review, the potential roles of NGS in better understanding of transmission patterns, accurately tracking parasite movement and addressing the emerging challenges of imported malaria in low transmission settings of sub-Saharan Africa are discussed. Furthermore, this review highlights the insights gained from malaria genomic research and challenges associated with integrating malaria genomics into existing surveillance tools to inform control and elimination strategies.
Keywords: Malaria genomics; Molecular epidemiology; Next-generation sequencing; Tracking parasites.