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Plasmodium malariae is often reported as a benign malaria parasite. There are limited data on its biology and disease burden in sub-Saharan Africa (sSA) possibly due to the unavailability of specific and affordable tools for routine diagnosis and large epidemiology studies. In addition, P. malariae occurs at low parasite densities and in co-infections with other species, predominately P. falciparum. The paucity of data on P. malariae infections limits the capacity to accurately determine its contribution to malaria and the effect of control interventions against P. falciparum on its prevalence. Here, we summarise the current knowledge on P. malariae epidemiology in sSA - overall prevalence ranging from 0-32%, as detected by different diagnostic methods; seroprevalence ranging from 0-56% in three countries (Mozambique, Benin and Zimbabwe), and explore the future application of next-generation sequencing technologies as a tool for enriching P. malariae genomic epidemiology. This will provide insights into important adaptive mechanisms of this neglected non-falciparum species, including antimalarial drug resistance, local and regional parasite transmission patterns and genomic signatures of selection. Improved diagnosis and genomic surveillance of non-falciparum malaria parasites in Africa would be helpful in evaluating progress towards elimination of all human Plasmodium species.


Eniyou C Oriero, Lucas Amenga-Etego, Deus S Ishengoma, Alfred Amambua-Ngwa. Plasmodium malariae, current knowledge and future research opportunities on a neglected malaria parasite species. Critical reviews in microbiology. 2021 Feb;47(1):44-56

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PMID: 33507842

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