A comprehensive analysis of drug resistance molecular markers and Plasmodium falciparum genetic diversity in two malaria endemic sites in Mali.

Drug resistance is one of the greatest challenges of malaria control programme in Mali. Recent advances in next-generation sequencing (NGS) technologies provide new and effective ways of tracking drug-resistant malaria parasites in Africa.

The diversity and the prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum drug-resistance molecular markers were assessed in Dangassa and Nioro-du-Sahel in Mali, two sites with distinct malaria transmission patterns. Dangassa has an intense seasonal malaria transmission, whereas Nioro-du-Sahel has an unstable and short seasonal malaria transmission.


Up to 270 dried blood spot samples (214 in Dangassa and 56 in Nioro-du-Sahel) were collected from P. falciparum positive patients in 2016. Samples were analysed on the Agena MassARRAY┬«┬áiPLEX platform. Specific codons were targeted in Pfcrt, Pfmdr1, Pfdhfr, and Pfdhps, Pfarps10, Pfferredoxin, Pfexonuclease and Pfmdr2 genes. The Sanger’s 101-SNPs-barcode method was used to assess the genetic diversity of P. falciparum and to determine the parasite species.The Pfcrt_76T chloroquine-resistance genotype was found at a rate of 64.4% in Dangassa and 45.2% in Nioro-du-Sahel (p = 0.025).

The Pfdhfr_51I-59R-108N pyrimethamine-resistance genotype was 14.1% and 19.6%, respectively in Dangassa and Nioro-du-Sahel. Mutations in the Pfdhps_S436-A437-K540-A581-613A sulfadoxine-resistance gene was significantly more prevalent in Dangassa as compared to Nioro-du-Sahel (p = 0.035). Up to 17.8% of the isolates from Dangassa vs 7% from Nioro-du-Sahel harboured at least two codon substitutions in this haplotype. The amodiaquine-resistance Pfmdr1_N86Y mutation was identified in only three samples (two in Dangassa and one in Nioro-du-Sahel).

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The lumefantrine-reduced susceptibility Pfmdr1_Y184F mutation was found in 39.9% and 48.2% of samples in Dangassa and Nioro-du-Sahel, respectively. One piperaquine-resistance Exo_E415G mutation was found in Dangassa, while no artemisinin resistance genetic-background were identified. A high P. falciparum diversity was observed, but no clear genetic aggregation was found at either study sites.

Higher multiplicity of infection was observed in Dangassa with both COIL (p = 0.04) and Real McCOIL (p = 0.02) methods relative to Nioro-du-Sahel.This study reveals high prevalence of chloroquine and pyrimethamine-resistance markers as well as high codon substitution rate in the sulfadoxine-resistance gene. High genetic diversity of P. falciparum was observed. These observations suggest that the use of artemisinins is relevant in both Dangassa and Nioro-du-Sahel.