Most malaria in Malaysia is caused by Plasmodium knowlesi parasites through zoonotic infection from macaque reservoir hosts. We obtained genome sequences from 28 clinical infections in Peninsular Malaysia to clarify the emerging parasite population structure and test for evidence of recent adaptation. The parasites all belonged to a major genetic population of P. knowlesi (cluster 3) with high genomewide divergence from populations occurring in Borneo (clusters 1 and 2).
Malaria is a tropical parasitic disease caused by the Plasmodium genus, which resulted in an estimated 219 million cases of malaria and 435 000 malaria-related deaths in 2017. Despite the availability of the Plasmodium falciparum genome since 2002, 74% of the genes remain uncharacterized. To remedy this paucity of functional information, we used transcriptomic data to build gene co-expression networks for two Plasmodium species (P. falciparum and P. berghei), and included genomic data of four other Plasmodium species, P. yoelii, P. knowlesi, P. vivax and P. cynomolgi, as well as two non-Plasmodium species from the Apicomplexa, Toxoplasma gondii and Theileria parva.
Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, the two protozoan parasite species that cause the majority of cases of human malaria, have developed resistance to nearly all known antimalarials. The ability of malaria parasites to develop resistance is primarily due to the high numbers of parasites in the infected person’s bloodstream during the asexual blood stage of infection in conjunction with the mutability of their genomes.