Plasmodium vivax is one of the widespread human malarial parasites accounting for 75% of malaria epidemics. However, there is no baseline information about the status and nature of genetic variation of Plasmodium species circulating in various parts of Pakistan. The present study was aimed at observing the molecular epidemiology and genetic variation of Plasmodium vivax by analysing its merozoite surface protein-3α (msp-3α) and merozoite surface protein-3β (msp-3β) genes, by using suballele, species-specific, combined nested PCR/RFLP detection techniques.
A total of 230 blood samples from suspected subjects tested slide positive for vivax malaria were collected from Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and Balochistan during the period May 2012 to December 2013. Combined nested PCR/RFLP technique was conducted using Pvmsp-3α and Pvmsp-3β genetic markers to detect extent of genetic variation in clinical isolates of P. vivax in the studied areas of Pakistan.
By PCR, P. vivax, 202/230 (87.82%), was found to be widely distributed in the studied areas. PCR/RFLP analysis showed a high range of allelic variations for both msp-3α and msp-3β genetic markers of P. vivax, i.e., 21 alleles for msp-3α and 19 for msp-3β. Statistically a significant difference (p ≤ 0.05) was observed in the genetic diversity of the suballelic variants of msp-3α and msp-3β genes of P. vivax.
It is concluded that P. vivax populations are highly polymorphic and diverse allelic variants of Pvmsp-3α and Pvmsp-3β are present in Pakistan.