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Under the Radar: Epidemiology of Plasmodium ovale in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Authors: Cedar L Mitchell, Nicholas F Brazeau, Corinna Keeler, Melchior Kashamuka Mwandagalirwa, Antoinette K Tshefu, Jonathan J Juliano, and Steven R Meshnick
Source: Journal of Infectious Diseases , Published online; DOI: 10.1093/infdis/jiaa478
Topic(s): Malaria
Country: Africa
  Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Published: AUG 2020
Abstract: Background: Plasmodium ovale is an understudied malaria species prevalent throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa. Little is known about the distribution of ovale malaria and risk factors associated with infection in areas of high malaria endemicity. Methods: Using the nationally representative 2013 Democratic Republic of the Congo Demographic and Health Survey, we conducted a risk factor analysis for P. ovale infections in one of the most malarious countries in the world. We evaluated geographic clustering of infections and speciated to P. ovale curtisi and P. ovale wallikeri through deep sequencing. Results: Of 18,149 Congolese adults tested, we detected 143 prevalent P. ovale infections, for a point prevalence estimate (95% confidence interval [CI]) of 0.8% (0.59-0.98). Prevalence ratios (PR) for significant risk factors were: male sex PR=2.12 (1.38-3.26), co-prevalent P. falciparum PR=3.52 (2.06-5.99), and rural residence PR=2.19 (1.31-3.66). P. ovale was broadly distributed throughout the DRC; an elevated cluster of infections was detected in the south-central region. Speciation revealed P. ovale curtisi and P. ovale wallikeri circulating throughout the country. Conclusions: P. ovale persists broadly in the DRC, a high malaria burden country. For successful elimination of all malaria species, P. ovale needs to be on the radar of malaria control programs. Keywords: Plasmodium ovale; amplicon sequencing; epidemiology; non-falciparum malaria.