Research ArticleGENETICS

Population genomic evidence of Plasmodium vivax Southeast Asian origin

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Science Advances  28 Apr 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 18, eabc3713
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abc3713

Abstract

Plasmodium vivax is the most common and widespread human malaria parasite. It was recently proposed that P. vivax originates from sub-Saharan Africa based on the circulation of its closest genetic relatives (P. vivax-like) among African great apes. However, the limited number of genetic markers and samples investigated questions the robustness of this hypothesis. Here, we extensively characterized the genomic variations of 447 human P. vivax strains and 19 ape P. vivax-like strains collected worldwide. Phylogenetic relationships between human and ape Plasmodium strains revealed that P. vivax is a sister clade of P. vivax-like, not included within the radiation of P. vivax-like. By investigating various aspects of P. vivax genetic variation, we identified several notable geographical patterns in summary statistics in function of the increasing geographic distance from Southeast Asia, suggesting that P. vivax may have derived from a single area in Asia through serial founder effects.

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