Temporal and spatial dynamics of Plasmodium falciparum clonal lineages in Guyana

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Feb 1:2024.01.31.578156. doi: 10.1101/2024.01.31.578156.


Plasmodium parasites, the causal agents of malaria, are eukaryotic organisms that obligately undergo sexual recombination within mosquitoes. However, in low transmission settings where most mosquitoes become infected with only a single parasite clone, parasites recombine with themselves, and the clonal lineage is propagated rather than broken up by outcrossing. We investigated whether stochastic/neutral factors drive the persistence and abundance of Plasmodium falciparum clonal lineages in Guyana, a country with relatively low malaria transmission, but the only setting in the Americas in which an important artemisinin resistance mutation (pfk13 C580Y) has been observed. To investigate whether this clonality was potentially associated with the persistence and spatial spread of the mutation, we performed whole genome sequencing on 1,727 Plasmodium falciparum samples collected from infected patients across a five-year period (2016-2021). We characterized the relatedness between each pair of monoclonal infections (n=1,409) through estimation of identity by descent (IBD) and also typed each sample for known or candidate drug resistance mutations. A total of 160 clones (mean IBD ≥ 0.90) were circulating in Guyana during the study period, comprising 13 highly related clusters (mean IBD ≥ 0.40). In the five-year study period, we observed a decrease in frequency of a mutation associated with artemisinin partner drug (piperaquine) resistance (pfcrt C350R) and limited co-occurence of pfcrt C350R with duplications of plasmepsin 2/3, an epistatic interaction associated with piperaquine resistance. We additionally report polymorphisms exhibiting evidence of selection for drug resistance or other phenotypes and reported a novel pfk13 mutation (G718S) as well as 61 nonsynonymous substitutions that increased markedly in frequency. However, P. falciparum clonal dynamics in Guyana appear to be largely driven by stochastic factors, in contrast to other geographic regions. The use of multiple artemisinin combination therapies in Guyana may have contributed to the disappearance of the pfk13 C580Y mutation.

Keywords: Guyana; Plasmodium falciparum; South America; artemisinin resistance; malaria; pfk13.

Publication types

  • Preprint