UMMS Affiliation

Program in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Computational Biology | Parasitic Diseases | Parasitology | Population Biology


BACKGROUND: Humans living in regions with high falciparum malaria transmission intensity harbour multi-strain infections comprised of several genetically distinct malaria haplotypes. The number of distinct malaria parasite haplotypes identified from an infected human host at a given time is referred to as the complexity of infection (COI). In this study, an amplicon-based deep sequencing method targeting the Plasmodium falciparum apical membrane antigen 1 (pfama1) was utilized to (1) investigate the relationship between P. falciparum prevalence and COI, (2) to explore the population genetic structure of P. falciparum parasites from malaria asymptomatic individuals participating in the 2007 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and (3) to explore selection pressures on geospatially divergent parasite populations by comparing AMA1 amino acid frequencies in the DRC and Mali.

RESULTS: A total of 900 P. falciparum infections across 11 DRC provinces were examined. Deep sequencing of both individuals, for COI analysis, and pools of individuals, to examine population structure, identified 77 unique pfama1 haplotypes. The majority of individual infections (64.5%) contained polyclonal (COI > 1) malaria infections based on the presence of genetically distinct pfama1 haplotypes. A minimal correlation between COI and malaria prevalence as determined by sensitive real-time PCR was identified. Population genetic analyses revealed extensive haplotype diversity, the vast majority of which was shared across the sites. AMA1 amino acid frequencies were similar between parasite populations in the DRC and Mali.

CONCLUSIONS: Amplicon-based deep sequencing is a useful tool for the detection of multi-strain infections that can aid in the understanding of antigen heterogeneity of potential malaria vaccine candidates, population genetics of malaria parasites, and factors that influence complex, polyclonal malaria infections. While AMA1 and other diverse markers under balancing selection may perform well for understanding COI, they may offer little geographic or temporal discrimination between parasite populations.


Amplicon-based deep sequencing, Apical membrane antigen 1, Complexity of infection, Plasmodium falciparum

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© The Author(s) 2017. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

DOI of Published Version



Malar J. 2017 Dec 16;16(1):490. doi: 10.1186/s12936-017-2137-9. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Malaria journal

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.



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