Indexed on: 17 Mar '10Published on: 17 Mar '10Published in: PNAS
Malaria therapy, experimental, and epidemiological studies have shown that erythrocyte Duffy blood group-negative people, largely of African ancestry, are resistant to erythrocyte Plasmodium vivax infection. These findings established a paradigm that the Duffy antigen is required for P. vivax erythrocyte invasion. P. vivax is endemic in Madagascar, where admixture of Duffy-negative and Duffy-positive populations of diverse ethnic backgrounds has occurred over 2 millennia. There, we investigated susceptibility to P. vivax blood-stage infection and disease in association with Duffy blood group polymorphism. Duffy blood group genotyping identified 72% Duffy-negative individuals (FY*B(ES)/*B(ES)) in community surveys conducted at eight sentinel sites. Flow cytometry and adsorption-elution results confirmed the absence of Duffy antigen expression on Duffy-negative erythrocytes. P. vivax PCR positivity was observed in 8.8% (42/476) of asymptomatic Duffy-negative people. Clinical vivax malaria was identified in Duffy-negative subjects with nine P. vivax monoinfections and eight mixed Plasmodium species infections that included P. vivax (4.9 and 4.4% of 183 participants, respectively). Microscopy examination of blood smears confirmed blood-stage development of P. vivax, including gametocytes. Genotyping of polymorphic surface and microsatellite markers suggested that multiple P. vivax strains were infecting Duffy-negative people. In Madagascar, P. vivax has broken through its dependence on the Duffy antigen for establishing human blood-stage infection and disease. Further studies are necessary to identify the parasite and host molecules that enable this Duffy-independent P. vivax invasion of human erythrocytes.