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Molecular epidemiology of Plasmodium falciparum infections among asymptomatic inhabitants of a holoendemic malarious area in northern Ghana

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Age dependence of malaria infection was assessed in an age-stratified cluster sample of 308 individuals from Kassena-Nankana District of northern Ghana during June and July 2000. Overall prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum by microscopy was 70%, with the maximum among 5–9 year olds. Parasite density was highest (geometric mean 1922/μl blood) in 1–2 year olds. Eighty-two per cent of samples were positive by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and restriction fragment length polymorphism typing of the P. falciparum msp2 revealed a mean msp2 multiplicity of 3.4 (range: 1–8) genotypes per PCR positive sample. Multiplicity increased with age until 5–9 years and then started to reduce again into adulthood. About 49.3% of infections belonged to the msp2 FC27 allelic family and 50.7% to the 3D7 family. On the day of the survey, only 3.6% of the participants had fever (axillary temperature ≥ 37.5 °C) and 2.3% had fever associated with parasitaemia. The correlation between parasite density and msp2 multiplicity was 0.42; highest among infants, and decreased with age to a minimum among 5–9 year olds. Contrasting with results from Tanzania, this correlation increased with age in adolescents and adults. Parasite multiplicity is very high in this community, and the patterns of age dependence are similar to those in other holoendemic sites in Africa, validating the use of the age–multiplicity relationship as an indicator of malaria endemicity.

Keywords: Ghana; PCR-RFLP; Plasmodium falciparum; all ages; msp2 gene; multiplicity of infection

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Navrongo Health Research Centre, Navrongo, Ghana, 2: Department of Public Health & Epidemiology, Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland

Publication date: 2002-05-01

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