Molecular surveillance of anti-malarial resistance pfcrt, pfmdr1, and pfk13 polymorphisms in African Plasmodium falciparum imported parasites to Wuhan, China

Malar J. 2021 May 1;20(1):209. doi: 10.1186/s12936-021-03737-8.


Background: Imported malaria parasites with anti-malarial drug resistance (ADR) from Africa is a serious public health challenge in non-malarial regions, including Wuhan, China. It is crucial to assess the ADR status in African Plasmodium falciparum isolates from imported malaria cases, as this will provide valuable information for rational medication and malaria control.

Methods: During 2017-2019, a cross-sectional study was carried out in Wuhan, China. Peripheral blood 3 ml of returned migrant workers from Africa was collected. The target fragments from pfcrt, pfmdr1, and k13 propeller (pfk13) genes were amplified, sequenced, and analysed.

Results: In total, 106 samples were collected. Subsequently, 98.11% (104/106), 100% (106/106), and 86.79% (92/106) of these samples were successfully amplified and sequenced for the pfcrt (72-76), pfmdr1, and pfk13 genes, respectively. The prevalence of the pfcrt 76 T, pfmdr1 86Y, and pfmdr1 184F mutations was 9.62, 4.72, and 47.17%, respectively. At codons 72-76, the pfcrt locus displayed three haplotypes, CVMNK (wild-type), CVIET (mutation type), CV M/I N/E K/T (mixed type), with 87.50%, 9.62%, and 2.88% prevalence, respectively. For the pfmdr1 gene, NY (wild type), NF and YF (mutant type), N Y/F, Y Y/F, and N/Y Y/F (mixed type) accounted for 34.91, 43.40, 3.77, 15.09, 0.94, and 1.89% of the haplotypes, respectively. A total of 83 isolates with six unique haplotypes were found in pfcrt and pfmdr1 combined haplotypes, of which NY-CVMNK and NF-CVMNK accounted for 40.96% (34/83) and 43.37% (36/83), respectively. Furthermore, 90 cases were successfully sequenced (84.91%, 90/106) at loci 93, 97, 101, and 145, and 78 cases were successfully sequenced (73.58%, 78/106) at loci 343, 353, and 356 for pfcrt. However, the mutation was observed only in locus 356 with 6.41%. For pfk13, mutations reported in Southeast Asia (at loci 474, 476, 493, 508, 527, 533, 537, 539, 543, 553, 568, 574, 578, and 580) and Africa (at loci 550, 561, 575, 579, and 589) were not observed.

Conclusions: The present data from pfcrt and pfmdr1 demonstrate that anti-malarial drugs including chloroquine, amodiaquine, and mefloquine, remain effective against malaria treatment in Africa. The new mutations in pfcrt related to piperaquine resistance remain at relatively low levels. Another source of concern is the artemether-lumefantrine resistance-related profiles of N86 and 184F of pfmdr1. Although no mutation in pfk13 is detected, molecular surveillance must continue.

Keywords: Anti-malarial resistance; Imported malaria; Molecular surveillance; Plasmodium falciparum; Wuhan.

MeSH terms

  • Africa
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • China
  • Communicable Diseases, Imported / drug therapy
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Mutation* / drug effects
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Polymorphism, Genetic*
  • Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism


  • Antimalarials
  • Mdr1 protein, Plasmodium falciparum
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Multidrug Resistance-Associated Proteins
  • PfCRT protein, Plasmodium falciparum
  • Protozoan Proteins