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Professor Dominic Kwiatkowski

Research Area: Global Health
Technology Exchange: Bioinformatics, SNP typing and Statistical genetics
Scientific Themes: Immunology & Infectious Disease
Keywords: human genome, malaria, network, epidemiology, informatics and variation
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Dominic Kwiatkowski is director of the Centre for Genomics and Global Health. He holds a joint position as MRC Clinical Research Professor at Oxford University, and as a Principal Investigator at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Dominic's labs at Oxford and Sanger work together as a single group. The overarching goal of their research is to translate advances in genome science into clinical and epidemiological applications that will help to reduce the burden of infectious disease in the developing world. They are developing methods for large-scale analysis of genome variation at the population level and using these to investigate, for example, how children living in malaria-endemic regions develop protective immunity against malaria, or how malaria parasites develop resistance against anti-malarial drugs. They work mainly on malaria, but many of the tools and methodologies that they are developing also have applications for other diseases.

One of the main interests of Dominic's research group is helping to develop data-sharing networks to tackle fundamental scientific problems that can be solved only by engaging many different research groups around the world. As the MalariaGEN Resource Centre, the group provides support and training in genetics, statistics, informatics and ethics for researchers in 15 malaria-endemic countries. The group also serves as the informatics hub of the Worldwide Antimalarial Resistance Network, which works with the WHO to bring together data from researchers, clinicians and public health agencies around the world.

Dominic trained in clinical paediatrics. He started research on cytokines in Charles Dinarello's laboratory in Boston in 1985, and the following year he went to The Gambia to study the molecular mechanism of malaria fever with Brian Greenwood. In 1989 he moved to Oxford University Department of Paediatrics, while maintaining a clinical research programme in The Gambia. His group started working on genetics around 1994, as a way of getting at basic questions about malaria pathogenesis. In 2000 his laboratory moved to the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics in Oxford, and in 2005 he took up a joint appointment at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Name Department Institution Country
Sodiomon Sirima Centre National de Recherche et de Formation sur le Paludisme (CNRFP) Burkina Faso
Eric Akum Achidi University of Buea Cameroon
David Conway MRC Laboratories Gambia
Tsiri Agbenyega Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology Ghana
Kwadwo Koram Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research Ghana
David Modiano University of Rome 'La Sapienza', Italy
Malcolm Molyneux Blantyre Malaria Project Malawi
Ogobara Doumbo University of Bamako Mali
Pascal Michon Institute for Medical Research Papua New Guinea
Nadira Karunaweera University of Colombo Sri Lanka
Muntaser Ibrahim University of Khartoum Sudan
Dr Julie Makani Tropical Medicine University of Oxford United Kingdom
Martha Lemnge National Institute for Medical Research Tanzania
Pratap Sinhasivanon Mahidol University Thailand
Professor Jeremy Farrar Tropical Medicine University of Oxford United Kingdom

Miotto O, Amato R, Ashley EA, MacInnis B, Almagro-Garcia J, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Mead D et al. 2015. Genetic architecture of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum. Nat Genet, 47 (3), pp. 226-234. Read abstract | Read more

We report a large multicenter genome-wide association study of Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin, the frontline antimalarial drug. Across 15 locations in Southeast Asia, we identified at least 20 mutations in kelch13 (PF3D7_1343700) affecting the encoded propeller and BTB/POZ domains, which were associated with a slow parasite clearance rate after treatment with artemisinin derivatives. Nonsynonymous polymorphisms in fd (ferredoxin), arps10 (apicoplast ribosomal protein S10), mdr2 (multidrug resistance protein 2) and crt (chloroquine resistance transporter) also showed strong associations with artemisinin resistance. Analysis of the fine structure of the parasite population showed that the fd, arps10, mdr2 and crt polymorphisms are markers of a genetic background on which kelch13 mutations are particularly likely to arise and that they correlate with the contemporary geographical boundaries and population frequencies of artemisinin resistance. These findings indicate that the risk of new resistance-causing mutations emerging is determined by specific predisposing genetic factors in the underlying parasite population. Hide abstract

Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network, Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network. 2014. Reappraisal of known malaria resistance loci in a large multicenter study. Nat Genet, 46 (11), pp. 1197-1204. Read abstract | Read more

Many human genetic associations with resistance to malaria have been reported, but few have been reliably replicated. We collected data on 11,890 cases of severe malaria due to Plasmodium falciparum and 17,441 controls from 12 locations in Africa, Asia and Oceania. We tested 55 SNPs in 27 loci previously reported to associate with severe malaria. There was evidence of association at P < 1 × 10(-4) with the HBB, ABO, ATP2B4, G6PD and CD40LG loci, but previously reported associations at 22 other loci did not replicate in the multicenter analysis. The large sample size made it possible to identify authentic genetic effects that are heterogeneous across populations or phenotypes, with a striking example being the main African form of G6PD deficiency, which reduced the risk of cerebral malaria but increased the risk of severe malarial anemia. The finding that G6PD deficiency has opposing effects on different fatal complications of P. falciparum infection indicates that the evolutionary origins of this common human genetic disorder are more complex than previously supposed. Hide abstract

Oyola SO, Manske M, Campino S, Claessens A, Hamilton WL, Kekre M, Drury E, Mead D et al. 2014. Optimized whole-genome amplification strategy for extremely AT-biased template. DNA Res, 21 (6), pp. 661-671. Read abstract | Read more

Pathogen genome sequencing directly from clinical samples is quickly gaining importance in genetic and medical research studies. However, low DNA yield from blood-borne pathogens is often a limiting factor. The problem worsens in extremely base-biased genomes such as the AT-rich Plasmodium falciparum. We present a strategy for whole-genome amplification (WGA) of low-yield samples from P. falciparum prior to short-read sequencing. We have developed WGA conditions that incorporate tetramethylammonium chloride for improved amplification and coverage of AT-rich regions of the genome. We show that this method reduces amplification bias and chimera formation. Our data show that this method is suitable for as low as 10 pg input DNA, and offers the possibility of sequencing the parasite genome from small blood samples. Hide abstract

Karlsson EK, Kwiatkowski DP, Sabeti PC. 2014. Natural selection and infectious disease in human populations. Nat Rev Genet, 15 (6), pp. 379-393. Read abstract | Read more

The ancient biological 'arms race' between microbial pathogens and humans has shaped genetic variation in modern populations, and this has important implications for the growing field of medical genomics. As humans migrated throughout the world, populations encountered distinct pathogens, and natural selection increased the prevalence of alleles that are advantageous in the new ecosystems in both host and pathogens. This ancient history now influences human infectious disease susceptibility and microbiome homeostasis, and contributes to common diseases that show geographical disparities, such as autoimmune and metabolic disorders. Using new high-throughput technologies, analytical methods and expanding public data resources, the investigation of natural selection is leading to new insights into the function and dysfunction of human biology. Hide abstract

Wendler JP, Okombo J, Amato R, Miotto O, Kiara SM, Mwai L, Pole L, O'Brien J et al. 2014. A genome wide association study of Plasmodium falciparum susceptibility to 22 antimalarial drugs in Kenya. PLoS One, 9 (5), pp. e96486. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Drug resistance remains a chief concern for malaria control. In order to determine the genetic markers of drug resistant parasites, we tested the genome-wide associations (GWA) of sequence-based genotypes from 35 Kenyan P. falciparum parasites with the activities of 22 antimalarial drugs. METHODS AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Parasites isolated from children with acute febrile malaria were adapted to culture, and sensitivity was determined by in vitro growth in the presence of anti-malarial drugs. Parasites were genotyped using whole genome sequencing techniques. Associations between 6250 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and resistance to individual anti-malarial agents were determined, with false discovery rate adjustment for multiple hypothesis testing. We identified expected associations in the pfcrt region with chloroquine (CQ) activity, and other novel loci associated with amodiaquine, quinazoline, and quinine activities. Signals for CQ and primaquine (PQ) overlap in and around pfcrt, and interestingly the phenotypes are inversely related for these two drugs. We catalog the variation in dhfr, dhps, mdr1, nhe, and crt, including novel SNPs, and confirm the presence of a dhfr-164L quadruple mutant in coastal Kenya. Mutations implicated in sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance are at or near fixation in this sample set. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Sequence-based GWA studies are powerful tools for phenotypic association tests. Using this approach on falciparum parasites from coastal Kenya we identified known and previously unreported genes associated with phenotypic resistance to anti-malarial drugs, and observe in high-resolution haplotype visualizations a possible signature of an inverse selective relationship between CQ and PQ. Hide abstract

Band G, Le QS, Jostins L, Pirinen M, Kivinen K, Jallow M, Sisay-Joof F, Bojang K et al. 2013. Imputation-based meta-analysis of severe malaria in three African populations. PLoS Genet, 9 (5), pp. e1003509. Read abstract | Read more

Combining data from genome-wide association studies (GWAS) conducted at different locations, using genotype imputation and fixed-effects meta-analysis, has been a powerful approach for dissecting complex disease genetics in populations of European ancestry. Here we investigate the feasibility of applying the same approach in Africa, where genetic diversity, both within and between populations, is far more extensive. We analyse genome-wide data from approximately 5,000 individuals with severe malaria and 7,000 population controls from three different locations in Africa. Our results show that the standard approach is well powered to detect known malaria susceptibility loci when sample sizes are large, and that modern methods for association analysis can control the potential confounding effects of population structure. We show that pattern of association around the haemoglobin S allele differs substantially across populations due to differences in haplotype structure. Motivated by these observations we consider new approaches to association analysis that might prove valuable for multicentre GWAS in Africa: we relax the assumptions of SNP-based fixed effect analysis; we apply Bayesian approaches to allow for heterogeneity in the effect of an allele on risk across studies; and we introduce a region-based test to allow for heterogeneity in the location of causal alleles. Hide abstract

Miotto O, Almagro-Garcia J, Manske M, Macinnis B, Campino S, Rockett KA, Amaratunga C, Lim P et al. 2013. Multiple populations of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Cambodia. Nat Genet, 45 (6), pp. 648-655. Read abstract | Read more

We describe an analysis of genome variation in 825 P. falciparum samples from Asia and Africa that identifies an unusual pattern of parasite population structure at the epicenter of artemisinin resistance in western Cambodia. Within this relatively small geographic area, we have discovered several distinct but apparently sympatric parasite subpopulations with extremely high levels of genetic differentiation. Of particular interest are three subpopulations, all associated with clinical resistance to artemisinin, which have skewed allele frequency spectra and high levels of haplotype homozygosity, indicative of founder effects and recent population expansion. We provide a catalog of SNPs that show high levels of differentiation in the artemisinin-resistant subpopulations, including codon variants in transporter proteins and DNA mismatch repair proteins. These data provide a population-level genetic framework for investigating the biological origins of artemisinin resistance and for defining molecular markers to assist in its elimination. Hide abstract

Manske M, Miotto O, Campino S, Auburn S, Almagro-Garcia J, Maslen G, O'Brien J, Djimde A et al. 2012. Analysis of Plasmodium falciparum diversity in natural infections by deep sequencing Nature, 487 (7407), pp. 375-379. Read abstract | Read more

Malaria elimination strategies require surveillance of the parasite population for genetic changes that demand a public health response, such as new forms of drug resistance. Here we describe methods for the large-scale analysis of genetic variation in Plasmodium falciparum by deep sequencing of parasite DNA obtained from the blood of patients with malaria, either directly or after short-term culture. Analysis of 86,158 exonic single nucleotide polymorphisms that passed genotyping quality control in 227 samples from Africa, Asia and Oceania provides genome-wide estimates of allele frequency distribution, population structure and linkage disequilibrium. By comparing the genetic diversity of individual infections with that of the local parasite population, we derive a metric of within-host diversity that is related to the level of inbreeding in the population. An open-access web application has been established for the exploration of regional differences in allele frequency and of highly differentiated loci in the P.falciparum genome. © 2012 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved. Hide abstract

Manske M, Miotto O, Campino S, Auburn S, Almagro-Garcia J, Maslen G, O'Brien J, Djimde A et al. 2012. Analysis of Plasmodium falciparum diversity in natural infections by deep sequencing. Nature, 487 (7407), pp. 375-379. Read abstract | Read more

Malaria elimination strategies require surveillance of the parasite population for genetic changes that demand a public health response, such as new forms of drug resistance. Here we describe methods for the large-scale analysis of genetic variation in Plasmodium falciparum by deep sequencing of parasite DNA obtained from the blood of patients with malaria, either directly or after short-term culture. Analysis of 86,158 exonic single nucleotide polymorphisms that passed genotyping quality control in 227 samples from Africa, Asia and Oceania provides genome-wide estimates of allele frequency distribution, population structure and linkage disequilibrium. By comparing the genetic diversity of individual infections with that of the local parasite population, we derive a metric of within-host diversity that is related to the level of inbreeding in the population. An open-access web application has been established for the exploration of regional differences in allele frequency and of highly differentiated loci in the P. falciparum genome. Hide abstract

Clark TG, Fry AE, Auburn S, Campino S, Diakite M, Green A, Richardson A, Teo YY et al. 2009. Allelic heterogeneity of G6PD deficiency in West Africa and severe malaria susceptibility. Eur J Hum Genet, 17 (8), pp. 1080-1085. Read abstract | Read more

Several lines of evidence link glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency to protection from severe malaria. Early reports suggested most G6PD deficiency in sub-Saharan Africa was because of the 202A/376G G6PD A- allele, and recent association studies of G6PD deficiency have employed genotyping as a convenient way to determine enzyme status. However, further work has suggested that other G6PD deficiency alleles are relatively common in some regions of West Africa. To investigate the consequences of unrecognized allelic heterogeneity on association studies, in particular studies of G6PD deficiency and malaria, we carried out a case-control analysis of 2488 Gambian children with severe malaria and 3875 controls. No significant association was found between severe malaria and the 202A/376G G6PD A- allele when analyzed alone, but pooling 202A/376G with other deficiency alleles revealed the signal of protection (male odds ratio (OR) 0.77, 95% CI 0.62-0.95, P=0.016; female OR 0.71, 95% CI 0.56-0.89, P=0.004). We have identified the 968C mutation as the most common G6PD A- allele in The Gambia. Our results highlight some of the consequences of allelic heterogeneity, particularly the increased type I error. They also suggest that G6PD-deficient male hemizygotes and female heterozygotes are protected from severe malaria. Hide abstract

Jallow M, Teo YY, Small KS, Rockett KA, Deloukas P, Clark TG, Kivinen K, Bojang KA et al. 2009. Genome-wide and fine-resolution association analysis of malaria in West Africa. Nat Genet, 41 (6), pp. 657-665. Read abstract | Read more

We report a genome-wide association (GWA) study of severe malaria in The Gambia. The initial GWA scan included 2,500 children genotyped on the Affymetrix 500K GeneChip, and a replication study included 3,400 children. We used this to examine the performance of GWA methods in Africa. We found considerable population stratification, and also that signals of association at known malaria resistance loci were greatly attenuated owing to weak linkage disequilibrium (LD). To investigate possible solutions to the problem of low LD, we focused on the HbS locus, sequencing this region of the genome in 62 Gambian individuals and then using these data to conduct multipoint imputation in the GWA samples. This increased the signal of association, from P = 4 × 10(-7) to P = 4 × 10(-14), with the peak of the signal located precisely at the HbS causal variant. Our findings provide proof of principle that fine-resolution multipoint imputation, based on population-specific sequencing data, can substantially boost authentic GWA signals and enable fine mapping of causal variants in African populations. Hide abstract

Clark TG, Diakite M, Auburn S, Campino S, Fry AE, Green A, Richardson A, Small K et al. 2009. Tumor necrosis factor and lymphotoxin-alpha polymorphisms and severe malaria in African populations. J Infect Dis, 199 (4), pp. 569-575. Read abstract | Read more

The tumor necrosis factor gene (TNF) and lymphotoxin-alpha gene (LTA) have long attracted attention as candidate genes for susceptibility traits for malaria, and several of their polymorphisms have been found to be associated with severe malaria (SM) phenotypes. In a large study involving >10,000 individuals and encompassing 3 African populations, we found evidence to support the reported associations between the TNF -238 polymorphism and SM in The Gambia. However, no TNF/LTA polymorphisms were found to be associated with SM in cohorts in Kenya and Malawi. It has been suggested that the causal polymorphisms regulating the TNF and LTA responses may be located some distance from the genes. Therefore, more-detailed mapping of variants across TNF/LTA genes and their flanking regions in the Gambian and allied populations may need to be undertaken to find any causal polymorphisms. Hide abstract

Diakite M, Clark TG, Auburn S, Campino S, Fry AE, Green A, Morris AP, Richardson A et al. 2009. A genetic association study in the Gambia using tagging polymorphisms in the major histocompatibility complex class III region implicates a HLA-B associated transcript 2 polymorphism in severe malaria susceptibility. Hum Genet, 125 (1), pp. 105-109. Read abstract | Read more

The tumour necrosis factor (TNF) gene and other genes flanking it in the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class III region are potentially important mediators of both immunity and pathogenesis of malaria. We investigated the association of severe malaria with 11 haplotype tagging-polymorphisms for 11 MHC class III candidate genes, including TNF, lymphotoxin alpha (LTA), allograft inflammatory factor 1 (AIF1), and HLA-B associated transcript 2 (BAT2). An analysis of 2,162 case-controls demonstrated the first evidence of association between a BAT2 polymorphism (rs1046089) and severe malaria. Hide abstract

Teo YY, Small KS, Fry AE, Wu Y, Kwiatkowski DP, Clark TG. 2009. Power consequences of linkage disequilibrium variation between populations. Genet Epidemiol, 33 (2), pp. 128-135. Read abstract | Read more

We quantify the degree to which LD differences exist in the human genome and investigates the consequences that variations in patterns of LD between populations can have on the power of case-control or family-trio association studies. Although only a small proportion of SNPs show significant LD differences (0.8-5%), these can introduce artificial signals of associations and reduce the power to detect true associations in case-control designs, even when meta-analytic approaches are used to account for stratification. We show that combining trios from different populations in the presence of significant LD differences can adversely affect power even though the number of trios has increased. Our results have implications on genetic studies conducted in populations with substantial population structure and show that the use of meta-analytic approaches or family-based designs to protect Type 1 error does not prevent loss of power due to differences in LD across populations. Hide abstract

Mangano VD, Clark TG, Auburn S, Campino S, Diakite M, Fry AE, Green A, Richardson A et al. 2009. Lack of association of interferon regulatory factor 1 with severe malaria in affected child-parental trio studies across three African populations. PLoS One, 4 (1), pp. e4206. Read abstract | Read more

Interferon Regulatory Factor 1 (IRF-1) is a member of the IRF family of transcription factors, which have key and diverse roles in the gene-regulatory networks of the immune system. IRF-1 has been described as a critical mediator of IFN-gamma signalling and as the major player in driving TH1 type responses. It is therefore likely to be crucial in both innate and adaptive responses against intracellular pathogens such as Plasmodium falciparum. Polymorphisms at the human IRF1 locus have been previously found to be associated with the ability to control P. falciparum infection in populations naturally exposed to malaria. In order to test whether genetic variation at the IRF1 locus also affects the risk of developing severe malaria, we performed a family-based test of association for 18 Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) across the gene in three African populations, using genotype data from 961 trios consisting of one affected child and his/her two parents (555 from The Gambia, 204 from Kenya and 202 from Malawi). No significant association with severe malaria or severe malaria subphenotypes (cerebral malaria and severe malaria anaemia) was observed for any of the SNPs/haplotypes tested in any of the study populations. Our results offer no evidence that the molecular pathways regulated by the transcription factor IRF-1 are involved in the immune-based pathogenesis of severe malaria. Hide abstract

Campino S, Forton J, Auburn S, Fry A, Diakite M, Richardson A, Hull J, Jallow M et al. 2009. TLR9 polymorphisms in African populations: no association with severe malaria, but evidence of cis-variants acting on gene expression. Malar J, 8 (1), pp. 44. Read abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: During malaria infection the Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) is activated through induction with plasmodium DNA or another malaria motif not yet identified. Although TLR9 activation by malaria parasites is well reported, the implication to the susceptibility to severe malaria is not clear. The aim of this study was to assess the contribution of genetic variation at TLR9 to severe malaria. METHODS: This study explores the contribution of TLR9 genetic variants to severe malaria using two approaches. First, an association study of four common single nucleotide polymorphisms was performed on both family- and population-based studies from Malawian and Gambian populations (n>6000 individual). Subsequently, it was assessed whether TLR9 expression is affected by cis-acting variants and if these variants could be mapped. For this work, an allele specific expression (ASE) assay on a panel of HapMap cell lines was carried out. RESULTS: No convincing association was found with polymorphisms in TLR9 for malaria severity, in either Gambian or Malawian populations, using both case-control and family based study designs. Using an allele specific expression assay it was observed that TLR9 expression is affected by cis-acting variants, these results were replicated in a second experiment using biological replicates. CONCLUSION: By using the largest cohorts analysed to date, as well as a standardized phenotype definition and study design, no association of TLR9 genetic variants with severe malaria was found. This analysis considered all common variants in the region, but it is remains possible that there are rare variants with association signals. This report also shows that TLR9 expression is potentially modulated through cis-regulatory variants, which may lead to differential inflammatory responses to infection between individuals. Hide abstract

Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network. 2008. A global network for investigating the genomic epidemiology of malaria. Nature, 456 (7223), pp. 732-737. Read abstract | Read more

Large-scale studies of genomic variation could assist efforts to eliminate malaria. But there are scientific, ethical and practical challenges to carrying out such studies in developing countries, where the burden of disease is greatest. The Malaria Genomic Epidemiology Network (MalariaGEN) is now working to overcome these obstacles, using a consortial approach that brings together researchers from 21 countries. Hide abstract

Artemisinin resistance surveillance using novel genetic markers

The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum causes a massive burden of disease and death in the developing world.  Artemisinin is the main drug used to treat falciparum malaria but parasites in Southeast Asia are becoming increasingly resistant.  It will be a global health disaster if artemisinin resistance spreads to Africa, where most malaria deaths occur, and an international campaign is therefore being launched to eliminate malaria in the areas where resistance is currently established.  To s ...

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Genetic surveillance to support malaria elimination in the Greater Mekong Subregion

The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum causes a massive burden of disease and death throughout the developing world.  The parasite is capable of rapid and extensive genetic change, undermining vaccine development with extreme antigenic diversity, and repeatedly developing resistance to antimalarial drugs.  Most recently, parasites in Southeast Asia have become increasingly resistant to artemisinin, the most effective frontline drug. If it spreads to Africa, artemisinin resistance could roll ...

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Using genomic diversity to map fine-scale epidemiology in malaria

The analysis of host-pathogen interactions is being transformed by the ability of sequencing technologies to measure genome-wide patterns of genetic variation in both parties.  However, in order to make sense of these data, new statistical and mathematical approaches need to be developed that integrate spatial epidemiological modelling and the population genetics of pathogen variation.  The aim of this project is to use sequencing data being generated by the Pf3k project on the primary malaria p ...

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