Genetic surveillance in the Greater Mekong subregion and South Asia to support malaria control and elimination

Elife. 2021 Aug 10:10:e62997. doi: 10.7554/eLife.62997.


Background: National Malaria Control Programmes (NMCPs) currently make limited use of parasite genetic data. We have developed GenRe-Mekong, a platform for genetic surveillance of malaria in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) that enables NMCPs to implement large-scale surveillance projects by integrating simple sample collection procedures in routine public health procedures.

Methods: Samples from symptomatic patients are processed by SpotMalaria, a high-throughput system that produces a comprehensive set of genotypes comprising several drug resistance markers, species markers and a genomic barcode. GenRe-Mekong delivers Genetic Report Cards, a compendium of genotypes and phenotype predictions used to map prevalence of resistance to multiple drugs.

Results: GenRe-Mekong has worked with NMCPs and research projects in eight countries, processing 9623 samples from clinical cases. Monitoring resistance markers has been valuable for tracking the rapid spread of parasites resistant to the dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine combination therapy. In Vietnam and Laos, GenRe-Mekong data have provided novel knowledge about the spread of these resistant strains into previously unaffected provinces, informing decision-making by NMCPs.

Conclusions: GenRe-Mekong provides detailed knowledge about drug resistance at a local level, and facilitates data sharing at a regional level, enabling cross-border resistance monitoring and providing the public health community with valuable insights. The project provides a rich open data resource to benefit the entire malaria community.

Funding: The GenRe-Mekong project is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (OPP11188166, OPP1204268). Genotyping and sequencing were funded by the Wellcome Trust (098051, 206194, 203141, 090770, 204911, 106698/B/14/Z) and Medical Research Council (G0600718). A proportion of samples were collected with the support of the UK Department for International Development (201900, M006212), and Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Keywords: asia; drug resistance; epidemiology; genetic surveillance; global health; infectious disease; malaria; microbiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asia, Southeastern
  • Bangladesh
  • Communicable Disease Control / statistics & numerical data*
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Disease Eradication / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Resistance / genetics*
  • India
  • Malaria / prevention & control*
  • Plasmodium / drug effects
  • Plasmodium / genetics*