Sub-microscopic Plasmodium falciparum infections in matched peripheral, placental and umbilical cord blood samples from asymptomatic Congolese women at delivery
- Asymptomatic pregnant women
- Plasmodium falciparum
- Genetic diversity
- Multiplicity of infections
In malaria-endemic areas, most pregnant women are susceptible to asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infections. We present here the results of a cross-sectional study conducted in Madibou, a southern district of Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, between March 2014 and April 2015. The main aim was to characterize P. falciparum infections. Blood samples corresponding to peripheral, placental and cord from 370 asymptomatic malaria women at delivery were diagnosed for plasmodium infection by thick blood smears (microscopic infection). Sub-microscopic infection was detected by PCR, using the MSP-2 gene as marker. Microscopic infections were detected in peripheral, placental and cord blood samples with a prevalence of respectively 7.3% (27/370), 2.7% (10/370) and 0%. The negative samples were submitted to sub-microscopic detection, with respective prevalence of 25.4% (87/343), 16.7% (60/360) and 9.4% (35/370) (P < 0.001). We further investigated the genetic diversity of the parasite by characterizing MSP2 allelic families 3D7 (24 distinct alleles) and FC27 (20 distinct alleles). The total number of alleles for these two families were 31, 25 and 19 in peripheral, placental and cord samples respectively. The 3D7 MSP-2 was the predominant allelic family. The multiplicity of infections (MOI) in peripheral (mean 1.4 ± 0.01; range 1–4), placental (mean 1.2 ± 0.01; range 1–3) and cord samples (1.4 ± 0.01; range 1–3) were similar (P = 0.9) and are unaffected by age, gravidity or sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. These results shown a high prevalence of sub-microscopic infection and a high genetic diversity of Plasmodium falciparum strains in Congo. Age, gravidity and doses of preventive treatment based on sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine do not interfere with the multiplicity of infections.