Whole Genome Sequencing of Field Isolates Reveals Extensive Genetic Diversity in Plasmodium vivax from Colombia
Plasmodium vivax is the most prevalent malarial species in South America and exerts a substantial burden on the populations it affects. The control and eventual elimination of P. vivax are global health priorities. Genomic research contributes to this objective by improving our understanding of the biology of P. vivax and through the development of new genetic markers that can be used to monitor efforts to reduce malaria transmission. Here we analyze whole-genome data from eight field samples from a region in Cordóba, Colombia where malaria is endemic. We find considerable genetic diversity within this population, a result that contrasts with earlier studies suggesting that P. vivax had limited diversity in the Americas. We also identify a selective sweep around a substitution known to confer resistance to sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP). This is the first observation of a selective sweep for SP resistance in this species. These results indicate that P. vivax has been exposed to SP pressure even when the drug is not in use as a first line treatment for patients afflicted by this parasite. We identify multiple non-synonymous substitutions in three other genes known to be involved with drug resistance in Plasmodium species. Finally, we found extensive microsatellite polymorphisms. Using this information we developed 18 polymorphic and easy to score microsatellite loci that can be used in epidemiological investigations in South America.