register interest

Dr Olivo Miotto

Research Area: Global Health
Technology Exchange: Bioinformatics, Computational biology, SNP typing and Statistical genetics
Scientific Themes: Genetics & Genomics and Tropical Medicine & Global Health
Keywords: genomics, informatics, malaria, epidemiology, infectious disease and software
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Because of malaria, millions of African children die before their first day at school. For decades, scientists and health authorities have raised hopes of eliminating this burden on the developing world, only to have these hopes dashed, time after time, by the astonishing adaptability of Plasmodium parasites, which seem capable of becoming tolerant to most drugs we deploy. Today, genomic technologies provide a powerful new weapon against these parasites. At the Centre for Genomics and Global Health, we have developed methods for determining the genetic code of Plasmodium parasite directly from blood samples taken from infected patients. Thanks to the falling cost of sequencing, and the reliability of our approach, we are now able to sequence literally thousands of parasites from clinical cases, and map this genomic information in geographical, ecological and historical contexts. Our goal is to determine how parasite populations change as a result of human intervention and environmental change, and observe new epidemiological trends in real time, to inform and guide public health intervention. In other words, "genomic epidemiology" will monitor Plasmodium evolution, so that humanity can keep steps ahead of the parasite.

Olivo Miotto focuses on translating the massive quantities of data produced by sequencing thousands of genomes into meaningful knowledge about the epidemiology of Plasmodium falciparum. By analyzing hundreds of thousands of genomic variations in each blood sample, he studies the genetics of parasite populations in four continents, and identifies patterns of evolution associated to responses to drug pressure and other human interventions. Based in Bangkok, Olivo collaborates with many clinical research groups in malaria endemic regions, particularly in Southeast Asia, to study relationships between  response to clinical therapy and genetics of the disease-causing parasites in the patient. In the early stages, the focus is on immediate problems, such as discovering mutations causing resistance to current drugs, such as artemisinin. However, Olivo's longer-term perspective is to create tools that will identify patterns in thousands of accumulated genomic sequences, leading to a deep understanding of parasite evolution and, ultimately, to interventions that will win the struggle against the disease.

When learning about Darwin at age 12, Olivo thought evolution was the coolest thing he had heard of. It took him decades to realize that it was also the best use for his skills. In between, he studied physics and worked as a software engineer, both in the commercial and academic worlds. At various times he focussed on Web applications, graphical user  interfaces, speech synthesis, online learning, and database systems, before finally switching to bioinformatics and genomics.

Name Department Institution Country
Professor Nicholas J White FRS Tropical Medicine Oxford University, Bangkok Thailand
Professor Nicholas PJ Day FMedSci FRCP Tropical Medicine Oxford University, Bangkok Thailand
Professor Adrianus Dondorp Tropical Medicine Oxford University, Bangkok Thailand
Professor Chris V Plowe University of Maryland United States
Dr Rick Fairhurst NIAID NIH United States
Professor François H Nosten Tropical Medicine Oxford University, Mae Sot Thailand
Dr Caterina I Fanello Tropical Medicine Oxford University, Bangkok Thailand
Dr Sarah Auburn Menzies Australia
Dr Julian Rayner Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute United Kingdom
Pearson RD, Amato R, Auburn S, Miotto O, Almagro-Garcia J, Amaratunga C, Suon S, Mao S et al. 2016. Genomic analysis of local variation and recent evolution in Plasmodium vivax. Nat Genet, 48 (8), pp. 959-964. | Show Abstract | Read more

The widespread distribution and relapsing nature of Plasmodium vivax infection present major challenges for the elimination of malaria. To characterize the genetic diversity of this parasite in individual infections and across the population, we performed deep genome sequencing of >200 clinical samples collected across the Asia-Pacific region and analyzed data on >300,000 SNPs and nine regions of the genome with large copy number variations. Individual infections showed complex patterns of genetic structure, with variation not only in the number of dominant clones but also in their level of relatedness and inbreeding. At the population level, we observed strong signals of recent evolutionary selection both in known drug resistance genes and at new loci, and these varied markedly between geographical locations. These findings demonstrate a dynamic landscape of local evolutionary adaptation in the parasite population and provide a foundation for genomic surveillance to guide effective strategies for control and elimination of P. vivax.

MalariaGEN Plasmodium falciparum Community Project. 2016. Genomic epidemiology of artemisinin resistant malaria. Elife, 5 (MARCH2016), | Show Abstract | Read more

The current epidemic of artemisinin resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia is the result of a soft selective sweep involving at least 20 independent kelch13 mutations. In a large global survey, we find that kelch13 mutations which cause resistance in Southeast Asia are present at low frequency in Africa. We show that African kelch13 mutations have originated locally, and that kelch13 shows a normal variation pattern relative to other genes in Africa, whereas in Southeast Asia there is a great excess of non-synonymous mutations, many of which cause radical amino-acid changes. Thus, kelch13 is not currently undergoing strong selection in Africa, despite a deep reservoir of variations that could potentially allow resistance to emerge rapidly. The practical implications are that public health surveillance for artemisinin resistance should not rely on kelch13 data alone, and interventions to prevent resistance must account for local evolutionary conditions, shown by genomic epidemiology to differ greatly between geographical regions.

Ponsuwanna P, Kochakarn T, Bunditvorapoom D, Kümpornsin K, Otto TD, Ridenour C, Chotivanich K, Wilairat P, White NJ, Miotto O, Chookajorn T. 2016. Comparative genome-wide analysis and evolutionary history of haemoglobin-processing and haem detoxification enzymes in malarial parasites. Malar J, 15 (1), pp. 51. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Malaria parasites have evolved a series of intricate mechanisms to survive and propagate within host red blood cells. Intra-erythrocytic parasitism requires these organisms to digest haemoglobin and detoxify iron-bound haem. These tasks are executed by haemoglobin-specific proteases and haem biocrystallization factors that are components of a large multi-subunit complex. Since haemoglobin processing machineries are functionally and genetically linked to the modes of action and resistance mechanisms of several anti-malarial drugs, an understanding of their evolutionary history is important for drug development and drug resistance prevention. METHODS: Maximum likelihood trees of genetic repertoires encoding haemoglobin processing machineries within Plasmodium species, and with the representatives of Apicomplexan species with various host tropisms, were created. Genetic variants were mapped onto existing three-dimensional structures. Genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism data were used to analyse the selective pressure and the effect of these mutations at the structural level. RESULTS: Recent expansions in the falcipain and plasmepsin repertoires are unique to human malaria parasites especially in the Plasmodium falciparum and P. reichenowi lineage. Expansion of haemoglobin-specific plasmepsins occurred after the separation event of Plasmodium species, but the other members of the plasmepsin family were evolutionarily conserved with one copy for each sub-group in every Apicomplexan species. Haemoglobin-specific falcipains are separated from invasion-related falcipain, and their expansions within one specific locus arose independently in both P. falciparum and P. vivax lineages. Gene conversion between P. falciparum falcipain 2A and 2B was observed in artemisinin-resistant strains. Comparison between the numbers of non-synonymous and synonymous mutations suggests a strong selective pressure at falcipain and plasmepsin genes. The locations of amino acid changes from non-synonymous mutations mapped onto protein structures revealed clusters of amino acid residues in close proximity or near the active sites of proteases. CONCLUSION: A high degree of polymorphism at the haemoglobin processing genes implicates an imposition of selective pressure. The identification in recent years of functional redundancy of haemoglobin-specific proteases makes them less appealing as potential drug targets, but their expansions, especially in the human malaria parasite lineages, unequivocally point toward their functional significance during the independent and repetitive adaptation events in malaria parasite evolutionary history.

St Laurent B, Miller B, Burton TA, Amaratunga C, Men S, Sovannaroth S, Fay MP, Miotto O, Gwadz RW, Anderson JM, Fairhurst RM. 2015. Artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum clinical isolates can infect diverse mosquito vectors of Southeast Asia and Africa. Nat Commun, 6 pp. 8614. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum parasites are rapidly spreading in Southeast Asia, yet nothing is known about their transmission. This knowledge gap and the possibility that these parasites will spread to Africa endanger global efforts to eliminate malaria. Here we produce gametocytes from parasite clinical isolates that displayed artemisinin resistance in patients and in vitro, and use them to infect native and non-native mosquito vectors. We show that contemporary artemisinin-resistant isolates from Cambodia develop and produce sporozoites in two Southeast Asian vectors, Anopheles dirus and Anopheles minimus, and the major African vector, Anopheles coluzzii (formerly Anopheles gambiae M). The ability of artemisinin-resistant parasites to infect such highly diverse Anopheles species, combined with their higher gametocyte prevalence in patients, may explain the rapid expansion of these parasites in Cambodia and neighbouring countries, and further compromise efforts to prevent their global spread.

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. | Show 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.

Mok S, Ashley EA, Ferreira PE, Zhu L, Lin Z, Yeo T, Chotivanich K, Imwong M et al. 2015. Drug resistance. Population transcriptomics of human malaria parasites reveals the mechanism of artemisinin resistance. Science, 347 (6220), pp. 431-435. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum threatens global efforts to control and eliminate malaria. Polymorphisms in the kelch domain-carrying protein K13 are associated with artemisinin resistance, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unknown. We analyzed the in vivo transcriptomes of 1043 P. falciparum isolates from patients with acute malaria and found that artemisinin resistance is associated with increased expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) pathways involving the major PROSC and TRiC chaperone complexes. Artemisinin-resistant parasites also exhibit decelerated progression through the first part of the asexual intraerythrocytic development cycle. These findings suggest that artemisinin-resistant parasites remain in a state of decelerated development at the young ring stage, whereas their up-regulated UPR pathways mitigate protein damage caused by artemisinin. The expression profiles of UPR-related genes also associate with the geographical origin of parasite isolates, further suggesting their role in emerging artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Takala-Harrison S, Jacob CG, Arze C, Cummings MP, Silva JC, Dondorp AM, Fukuda MM, Hien TT et al. 2015. Independent emergence of artemisinin resistance mutations among Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia. J Infect Dis, 211 (5), pp. 670-679. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The emergence of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia threatens malaria treatment efficacy. Mutations in a kelch protein encoded on P. falciparum chromosome 13 (K13) have been associated with resistance in vitro and in field samples from Cambodia. METHODS: P. falciparum infections from artesunate efficacy trials in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam were genotyped at 33 716 genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). Linear mixed models were used to test associations between parasite genotypes and parasite clearance half-lives following artesunate treatment. K13 mutations were tested for association with artemisinin resistance, and extended haplotypes on chromosome 13 were examined to determine whether mutations arose focally and spread or whether they emerged independently. RESULTS: The presence of nonreference K13 alleles was associated with prolonged parasite clearance half-life (P = 1.97 × 10(-12)). Parasites with a mutation in any of the K13 kelch domains displayed longer parasite clearance half-lives than parasites with wild-type alleles. Haplotype analysis revealed both population-specific emergence of mutations and independent emergence of the same mutation in different geographic areas. CONCLUSIONS: K13 appears to be a major determinant of artemisinin resistance throughout Southeast Asia. While we found some evidence of spreading resistance, there was no evidence of resistance moving westward from Cambodia into Myanmar.

Ashley EA, Dhorda M, Fairhurst RM, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Suon S, Sreng S, Anderson JM et al. 2014. Spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. N Engl J Med, 371 (5), pp. 411-423. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum has emerged in Southeast Asia and now poses a threat to the control and elimination of malaria. Mapping the geographic extent of resistance is essential for planning containment and elimination strategies. METHODS: Between May 2011 and April 2013, we enrolled 1241 adults and children with acute, uncomplicated falciparum malaria in an open-label trial at 15 sites in 10 countries (7 in Asia and 3 in Africa). Patients received artesunate, administered orally at a daily dose of either 2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day or 4 mg per kilogram, for 3 days, followed by a standard 3-day course of artemisinin-based combination therapy. Parasite counts in peripheral-blood samples were measured every 6 hours, and the parasite clearance half-lives were determined. RESULTS: The median parasite clearance half-lives ranged from 1.9 hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 7.0 hours at the Thailand-Cambodia border. Slowly clearing infections (parasite clearance half-life >5 hours), strongly associated with single point mutations in the "propeller" region of the P. falciparum kelch protein gene on chromosome 13 (kelch13), were detected throughout mainland Southeast Asia from southern Vietnam to central Myanmar. The incidence of pretreatment and post-treatment gametocytemia was higher among patients with slow parasite clearance, suggesting greater potential for transmission. In western Cambodia, where artemisinin-based combination therapies are failing, the 6-day course of antimalarial therapy was associated with a cure rate of 97.7% (95% confidence interval, 90.9 to 99.4) at 42 days. CONCLUSIONS: Artemisinin resistance to P. falciparum, which is now prevalent across mainland Southeast Asia, is associated with mutations in kelch13. Prolonged courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies are currently efficacious in areas where standard 3-day treatments are failing. (Funded by the U.K. Department of International Development and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01350856.).

Amaratunga C, Witkowski B, Dek D, Try V, Khim N, Miotto O, Ménard D, Fairhurst RM. 2014. Plasmodium falciparum founder populations in western Cambodia have reduced artemisinin sensitivity in vitro. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 58 (8), pp. 4935-4937. | Show Abstract | Read more

Reduced Plasmodium falciparum sensitivity to short-course artemisinin (ART) monotherapy manifests as a long parasite clearance half-life. We recently defined three parasite founder populations with long half-lives in Pursat, western Cambodia, where reduced ART sensitivity is prevalent. Using the ring-stage survival assay, we show that these founder populations have reduced ART sensitivity in vitro at the early ring stage of parasite development and that a genetically admixed population contains subsets of parasites with normal or reduced ART sensitivity.

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. | Show 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.

Ariey F, Witkowski B, Amaratunga C, Beghain J, Langlois AC, Khim N, Kim S, Duru V et al. 2014. A molecular marker of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Nature, 505 (7481), pp. 50-55. | Show Abstract | Read more

Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin derivatives in southeast Asia threatens malaria control and elimination activities worldwide. To monitor the spread of artemisinin resistance, a molecular marker is urgently needed. Here, using whole-genome sequencing of an artemisinin-resistant parasite line from Africa and clinical parasite isolates from Cambodia, we associate mutations in the PF3D7_1343700 kelch propeller domain ('K13-propeller') with artemisinin resistance in vitro and in vivo. Mutant K13-propeller alleles cluster in Cambodian provinces where resistance is prevalent, and the increasing frequency of a dominant mutant K13-propeller allele correlates with the recent spread of resistance in western Cambodia. Strong correlations between the presence of a mutant allele, in vitro parasite survival rates and in vivo parasite clearance rates indicate that K13-propeller mutations are important determinants of artemisinin resistance. K13-propeller polymorphism constitutes a useful molecular marker for large-scale surveillance efforts to contain artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion and prevent its global spread.

Lim P, Dek D, Try V, Eastman RT, Chy S, Sreng S, Suon S, Mao S et al. 2013. Ex vivo susceptibility of Plasmodium falciparum to antimalarial drugs in western, northern, and eastern Cambodia, 2011-2012: association with molecular markers. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 57 (11), pp. 5277-5283. | Show Abstract | Read more

In 2008, dihydroartemisinin (DHA)-piperaquine (PPQ) became the first-line treatment for uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in western Cambodia. Recent reports of increased treatment failure rates after DHA-PPQ therapy in this region suggest that parasite resistance to DHA, PPQ, or both is now adversely affecting treatment. While artemisinin (ART) resistance is established in western Cambodia, there is no evidence of PPQ resistance. To monitor for resistance to PPQ and other antimalarials, we measured drug susceptibilities for parasites collected in 2011 and 2012 from Pursat, Preah Vihear, and Ratanakiri, in western, northern, and eastern Cambodia, respectively. Using a SYBR green I fluorescence assay, we calculated the ex vivo 50% inhibitory concentrations (IC50s) of 310 parasites to six antimalarials: chloroquine (CQ), mefloquine (MQ), quinine (QN), PPQ, artesunate (ATS), and DHA. Geometric mean IC50s (GMIC50s) for all drugs (except PPQ) were significantly higher in Pursat and Preah Vihear than in Ratanakiri (P ≤ 0.001). An increased copy number of P. falciparum mdr1 (pfmdr1), an MQ resistance marker, was more prevalent in Pursat and Preah Vihear than in Ratanakiri and was associated with higher GMIC50s for MQ, QN, ATS, and DHA. An increased copy number of a chromosome 5 region (X5r), a candidate PPQ resistance marker, was detected in Pursat but was not associated with reduced susceptibility to PPQ. The ex vivo IC50 and pfmdr1 copy number are important tools in the surveillance of multidrug-resistant (MDR) parasites in Cambodia. While MDR P. falciparum is prevalent in western and northern Cambodia, there is no evidence for PPQ resistance, suggesting that DHA-PPQ treatment failures result mainly from ART resistance.

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. | Show 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.

Auburn S, Marfurt J, Maslen G, Campino S, Ruano Rubio V, Manske M, Machunter B, Kenangalem E et al. 2013. Effective preparation of Plasmodium vivax field isolates for high-throughput whole genome sequencing. PLoS One, 8 (1), pp. e53160. | Show Abstract | Read more

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) of Plasmodium vivax is problematic due to the reliance on clinical isolates which are generally low in parasitaemia and sample volume. Furthermore, clinical isolates contain a significant contaminating background of host DNA which confounds efforts to map short read sequence of the target P. vivax DNA. Here, we discuss a methodology to significantly improve the success of P. vivax WGS on natural (non-adapted) patient isolates. Using 37 patient isolates from Indonesia, Thailand, and travellers, we assessed the application of CF11-based white blood cell filtration alone and in combination with short term ex vivo schizont maturation. Although CF11 filtration reduced human DNA contamination in 8 Indonesian isolates tested, additional short-term culture increased the P. vivax DNA yield from a median of 0.15 to 6.2 ng µl(-1) packed red blood cells (pRBCs) (p = 0.001) and reduced the human DNA percentage from a median of 33.9% to 6.22% (p = 0.008). Furthermore, post-CF11 and culture samples from Thailand gave a median P. vivax DNA yield of 2.34 ng µl(-1) pRBCs, and 2.65% human DNA. In 22 P. vivax patient isolates prepared with the 2-step method, we demonstrate high depth (median 654X coverage) and breadth (≥89%) of coverage on the Illumina GAII and HiSeq platforms. In contrast to the A+T-rich P. falciparum genome, negligible bias was observed in coverage depth between coding and non-coding regions of the P. vivax genome. This uniform coverage will greatly facilitate the detection of SNPs and copy number variants across the genome, enabling unbiased exploration of the natural diversity in P. vivax populations.

Takala-Harrison S, Clark TG, Jacob CG, Cummings MP, Miotto O, Dondorp AM, Fukuda MM, Nosten F et al. 2013. Genetic loci associated with delayed clearance of Plasmodium falciparum following artemisinin treatment in Southeast Asia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110 (1), pp. 240-245. | Show Abstract | Read more

The recent emergence of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria in western Cambodia could threaten prospects for malaria elimination. Identification of the genetic basis of resistance would provide tools for molecular surveillance, aiding efforts to contain resistance. Clinical trials of artesunate efficacy were conducted in Bangladesh, in northwestern Thailand near the Myanmar border, and at two sites in western Cambodia. Parasites collected from trial participants were genotyped at 8,079 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using a P. falciparum-specific SNP array. Parasite genotypes were examined for signatures of recent positive selection and association with parasite clearance phenotypes to identify regions of the genome associated with artemisinin resistance. Four SNPs on chromosomes 10 (one), 13 (two), and 14 (one) were significantly associated with delayed parasite clearance. The two SNPs on chromosome 13 are in a region of the genome that appears to be under strong recent positive selection in Cambodia. The SNPs on chromosomes 10 and 13 lie in or near genes involved in postreplication repair, a DNA damage-tolerance pathway. Replication and validation studies are needed to refine the location of loci responsible for artemisinin resistance and to understand the mechanism behind it; however, two SNPs on chromosomes 10 and 13 may be useful markers of delayed parasite clearance in surveillance for artemisinin resistance in Southeast Asia.

Williams AR, Douglas AD, Miura K, Illingworth JJ, Choudhary P, Murungi LM, Furze JM, Diouf A et al. 2012. Enhancing blockade of Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte invasion: assessing combinations of antibodies against PfRH5 and other merozoite antigens. PLoS Pathog, 8 (11), pp. e1002991. | Show Abstract | Read more

No vaccine has yet proven effective against the blood-stages of Plasmodium falciparum, which cause the symptoms and severe manifestations of malaria. We recently found that PfRH5, a P. falciparum-specific protein expressed in merozoites, is efficiently targeted by broadly-neutralizing, vaccine-induced antibodies. Here we show that antibodies against PfRH5 efficiently inhibit the in vitro growth of short-term-adapted parasite isolates from Cambodia, and that the EC(50) values of antigen-specific antibodies against PfRH5 are lower than those against PfAMA1. Since antibody responses elicited by multiple antigens are speculated to improve the efficacy of blood-stage vaccines, we conducted detailed assessments of parasite growth inhibition by antibodies against PfRH5 in combination with antibodies against seven other merozoite antigens. We found that antibodies against PfRH5 act synergistically with antibodies against certain other merozoite antigens, most notably with antibodies against other erythrocyte-binding antigens such as PfRH4, to inhibit the growth of a homologous P. falciparum clone. A combination of antibodies against PfRH4 and basigin, the erythrocyte receptor for PfRH5, also potently inhibited parasite growth. This methodology provides the first quantitative evidence that polyclonal vaccine-induced antibodies can act synergistically against P. falciparum antigens and should help to guide the rational development of future multi-antigen vaccines.

Cited:

135

Scopus

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. | Show 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.

Jung KO, Khan AM, Tan BY, Hu Y, Simon GG, Nascimento EJ, Lemonnier F, Brusic V et al. 2012. West Nile virus T-cell ligand sequences shared with other flaviviruses: a multitude of variant sequences as potential altered peptide ligands. J Virol, 86 (14), pp. 7616-7624. | Show Abstract | Read more

Phylogenetic relatedness and cocirculation of several major human pathogen flaviviruses are recognized as a possible cause of deleterious immune responses to mixed infection or immunization and call for a greater understanding of the inter-Flavivirus protein homologies. This study focused on the identification of human leukocyte antigen (HLA)-restricted West Nile virus (WNV) T-cell ligands and characterization of their distribution in reported sequence data of WNV and other flaviviruses. H-2-deficient mice transgenic for either A2, A24, B7, DR2, DR3, or DR4 HLA alleles were immunized with overlapping peptides of the WNV proteome, and peptide-specific T-cell activation was measured by gamma interferon (IFN-γ) enzyme-linked immunosorbent spot (ELISpot) assays. Approximately 30% (137) of the WNV proteome peptides were identified as HLA-restricted T-cell ligands. The majority of these ligands were conserved in ∼≥88% of analyzed WNV sequences. Notably, only 51 were WNV specific, and the remaining 86, chiefly of E, NS3, and NS5, shared an identity of nine or more consecutive amino acids with sequences of 64 other flaviviruses, including several major human pathogens. Many of the shared ligands had an incidence of >50% in the analyzed sequences of one or more of six major flaviviruses. The multitude of WNV sequences shared with other flaviviruses as interspecies variants highlights the possible hazard of defective T-cell activation by altered peptide ligands in the event of dual exposure to WNV and other flaviviruses, by either infection or immunization. The data suggest the possible preferred use of sequences that are pathogen specific with minimum interspecies sequence homology for the design of Flavivirus vaccines.

Auburn S, Campino S, Miotto O, Djimde AA, Zongo I, Manske M, Maslen G, Mangano V et al. 2012. Characterization of within-host Plasmodium falciparum diversity using next-generation sequence data. PLoS One, 7 (2), pp. e32891. | Show Abstract | Read more

Our understanding of the composition of multi-clonal malarial infections and the epidemiological factors which shape their diversity remain poorly understood. Traditionally within-host diversity has been defined in terms of the multiplicity of infection (MOI) derived by PCR-based genotyping. Massively parallel, single molecule sequencing technologies now enable individual read counts to be derived on genome-wide datasets facilitating the development of new statistical approaches to describe within-host diversity. In this class of measures the F(WS) metric characterizes within-host diversity and its relationship to population level diversity. Utilizing P. falciparum field isolates from patients in West Africa we here explore the relationship between the traditional MOI and F(WS) approaches. F(WS) statistics were derived from read count data at 86,158 SNPs in 64 samples sequenced on the Illumina GA platform. MOI estimates were derived by PCR at the msp-1 and -2 loci. Significant correlations were observed between the two measures, particularly with the msp-1 locus (P = 5.92×10(-5)). The F(WS) metric should be more robust than the PCR-based approach owing to reduced sensitivity to potential locus-specific artifacts. Furthermore the F(WS) metric captures information on a range of parameters which influence out-crossing risk including the number of clones (MOI), their relative proportions and genetic divergence. This approach should provide novel insights into the factors which correlate with, and shape within-host diversity.

Halling-Brown M, Pappalardo F, Rapin N, Zhang P, Alemani D, Emerson A, Castiglione F, Duroux P et al. 2010. ImmunoGrid: towards agent-based simulations of the human immune system at a natural scale. Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci, 368 (1920), pp. 2799-2815. | Show Abstract | Read more

The ultimate aim of the EU-funded ImmunoGrid project is to develop a natural-scale model of the human immune system-that is, one that reflects both the diversity and the relative proportions of the molecules and cells that comprise it-together with the grid infrastructure necessary to apply this model to specific applications in the field of immunology. These objectives present the ImmunoGrid Consortium with formidable challenges in terms of complexity of the immune system, our partial understanding about how the immune system works, the lack of reliable data and the scale of computational resources required. In this paper, we explain the key challenges and the approaches adopted to overcome them. We also consider wider implications for the present ambitious plans to develop natural-scale, integrated models of the human body that can make contributions to personalized health care, such as the European Virtual Physiological Human initiative. Finally, we ask a key question: How long will it take us to resolve these challenges and when can we expect to have fully functional models that will deliver health-care benefits in the form of personalized care solutions and improved disease prevention?

Miotto O, Heiny AT, Albrecht R, García-Sastre A, Tan TW, August JT, Brusic V. 2010. Complete-proteome mapping of human influenza A adaptive mutations: implications for human transmissibility of zoonotic strains. PLoS One, 5 (2), pp. e9025. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: There is widespread concern that H5N1 avian influenza A viruses will emerge as a pandemic threat, if they become capable of human-to-human (H2H) transmission. Avian strains lack this capability, which suggests that it requires important adaptive mutations. We performed a large-scale comparative analysis of proteins from avian and human strains, to produce a catalogue of mutations associated with H2H transmissibility, and to detect their presence in avian isolates. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We constructed a dataset of influenza A protein sequences from 92,343 public database records. Human and avian sequence subsets were compared, using a method based on mutual information, to identify characteristic sites where human isolates present conserved mutations. The resulting catalogue comprises 68 characteristic sites in eight internal proteins. Subtype variability prevented the identification of adaptive mutations in the hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins. The high number of sites in the ribonucleoprotein complex suggests interdependence between mutations in multiple proteins. Characteristic sites are often clustered within known functional regions, suggesting their functional roles in cellular processes. By isolating and concatenating characteristic site residues, we defined adaptation signatures, which summarize the adaptive potential of specific isolates. Most adaptive mutations emerged within three decades after the 1918 pandemic, and have remained remarkably stable thereafter. Two lineages with stable internal protein constellations have circulated among humans without reassorting. On the contrary, H5N1 avian and swine viruses reassort frequently, causing both gains and losses of adaptive mutations. CONCLUSIONS: Human host adaptation appears to be complex and systemic, involving nearly all influenza proteins. Adaptation signatures suggest that the ability of H5N1 strains to infect humans is related to the presence of an unusually high number of adaptive mutations. However, these mutations appear unstable, suggesting low pandemic potential of H5N1 in its current form. In addition, adaptation signatures indicate that pandemic H1N1/09 strain possesses multiple human-transmissibility mutations, though not an unusually high number with respect to swine strains that infected humans in the past. Adaptation signatures provide a novel tool for identifying zoonotic strains with the potential to infect humans.

Tan PT, Heiny AT, Miotto O, Salmon J, Marques ET, Lemonnier F, August JT. 2010. Conservation and diversity of influenza A H1N1 HLA-restricted T cell epitope candidates for epitope-based vaccines. PLoS One, 5 (1), pp. e8754. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The immune-related evolution of influenza viruses is exceedingly complex and current vaccines against influenza must be reformulated for each influenza season because of the high degree of antigenic drift among circulating influenza strains. Delay in vaccine production is a serious problem in responding to a pandemic situation, such as that of the current H1N1 strain. Immune escape is generally attributed to reduced antibody recognition of the viral hemagglutinin and neuraminidase proteins whose rate of mutation is much greater than that of the internal non-structural proteins. As a possible alternative, vaccines directed at T cell epitope domains of internal influenza proteins, that are less susceptible to antigenic variation, have been investigated. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: HLA transgenic mouse strains expressing HLA class I A*0201, A*2402, and B*0702, and class II DRB1*1501, DRB1*0301 and DRB1*0401 were immunized with 196 influenza H1N1 peptides that contained residues of highly conserved proteome sequences of the human H1N1, H3N2, H1N2, H5N1, and avian influenza A strains. Fifty-four (54) peptides that elicited 63 HLA-restricted peptide-specific T cell epitope responses were identified by IFN-gamma ELISpot assay. The 54 peptides were compared to the 2007-2009 human H1N1 sequences for selection of sequences in the design of a new candidate H1N1 vaccine, specifically targeted to highly-conserved HLA-restricted T cell epitopes. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Seventeen (17) T cell epitopes in PB1, PB2, and M1 were selected as vaccine targets based on sequence conservation over the past 30 years, high functional avidity, non-identity to human peptides, clustered localization, and promiscuity to multiple HLA alleles. These candidate vaccine antigen sequences may be applicable to any avian or human influenza A virus.

Pappalardo F, Halling-Brown MD, Rapin N, Zhang P, Alemani D, Emerson A, Paci P, Duroux P et al. 2009. ImmunoGrid, an integrative environment for large-scale simulation of the immune system for vaccine discovery, design and optimization. Brief Bioinform, 10 (3), pp. 330-340. | Show Abstract | Read more

Vaccine research is a combinatorial science requiring computational analysis of vaccine components, formulations and optimization. We have developed a framework that combines computational tools for the study of immune function and vaccine development. This framework, named ImmunoGrid combines conceptual models of the immune system, models of antigen processing and presentation, system-level models of the immune system, Grid computing, and database technology to facilitate discovery, formulation and optimization of vaccines. ImmunoGrid modules share common conceptual models and ontologies. The ImmunoGrid portal offers access to educational simulators where previously defined cases can be displayed, and to research simulators that allow the development of new, or tuning of existing, computational models. The portal is accessible at <igrid-ext.cryst.bbk.ac.uk/immunogrid>.

Koo QY, Khan AM, Jung KO, Ramdas S, Miotto O, Tan TW, Brusic V, Salmon J, August JT. 2009. Conservation and variability of West Nile virus proteins. PLoS One, 4 (4), pp. e5352. | Show Abstract | Read more

West Nile virus (WNV) has emerged globally as an increasingly important pathogen for humans and domestic animals. Studies of the evolutionary diversity of the virus over its known history will help to elucidate conserved sites, and characterize their correspondence to other pathogens and their relevance to the immune system. We describe a large-scale analysis of the entire WNV proteome, aimed at identifying and characterizing evolutionarily conserved amino acid sequences. This study, which used 2,746 WNV protein sequences collected from the NCBI GenPept database, focused on analysis of peptides of length 9 amino acids or more, which are immunologically relevant as potential T-cell epitopes. Entropy-based analysis of the diversity of WNV sequences, revealed the presence of numerous evolutionarily stable nonamer positions across the proteome (entropy value of < or = 1). The representation (frequency) of nonamers variant to the predominant peptide at these stable positions was, generally, low (< or = 10% of the WNV sequences analyzed). Eighty-eight fragments of length 9-29 amino acids, representing approximately 34% of the WNV polyprotein length, were identified to be identical and evolutionarily stable in all analyzed WNV sequences. Of the 88 completely conserved sequences, 67 are also present in other flaviviruses, and several have been associated with the functional and structural properties of viral proteins. Immunoinformatic analysis revealed that the majority (78/88) of conserved sequences are potentially immunogenic, while 44 contained experimentally confirmed human T-cell epitopes. This study identified a comprehensive catalogue of completely conserved WNV sequences, many of which are shared by other flaviviruses, and majority are potential epitopes. The complete conservation of these immunologically relevant sequences through the entire recorded WNV history suggests they will be valuable as components of peptide-specific vaccines or other therapeutic applications, for sequence-specific diagnosis of a wide-range of Flavivirus infections, and for studies of homologous sequences among other flaviviruses.

Khan AM, Miotto O, Nascimento EJ, Srinivasan KN, Heiny AT, Zhang GL, Marques ET, Tan TW, Brusic V, Salmon J, August JT. 2008. Conservation and variability of dengue virus proteins: implications for vaccine design. PLoS Negl Trop Dis, 2 (8), pp. e272. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Genetic variation and rapid evolution are hallmarks of RNA viruses, the result of high mutation rates in RNA replication and selection of mutants that enhance viral adaptation, including the escape from host immune responses. Variability is uneven across the genome because mutations resulting in a deleterious effect on viral fitness are restricted. RNA viruses are thus marked by protein sites permissive to multiple mutations and sites critical to viral structure-function that are evolutionarily robust and highly conserved. Identification and characterization of the historical dynamics of the conserved sites have relevance to multiple applications, including potential targets for diagnosis, and prophylactic and therapeutic purposes. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We describe a large-scale identification and analysis of evolutionarily highly conserved amino acid sequences of the entire dengue virus (DENV) proteome, with a focus on sequences of 9 amino acids or more, and thus immune-relevant as potential T-cell determinants. DENV protein sequence data were collected from the NCBI Entrez protein database in 2005 (9,512 sequences) and again in 2007 (12,404 sequences). Forty-four (44) sequences (pan-DENV sequences), mainly those of nonstructural proteins and representing approximately 15% of the DENV polyprotein length, were identical in 80% or more of all recorded DENV sequences. Of these 44 sequences, 34 ( approximately 77%) were present in >or=95% of sequences of each DENV type, and 27 ( approximately 61%) were conserved in other Flaviviruses. The frequencies of variants of the pan-DENV sequences were low (0 to approximately 5%), as compared to variant frequencies of approximately 60 to approximately 85% in the non pan-DENV sequence regions. We further showed that the majority of the conserved sequences were immunologically relevant: 34 contained numerous predicted human leukocyte antigen (HLA) supertype-restricted peptide sequences, and 26 contained T-cell determinants identified by studies with HLA-transgenic mice and/or reported to be immunogenic in humans. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: Forty-four (44) pan-DENV sequences of at least 9 amino acids were highly conserved and identical in 80% or more of all recorded DENV sequences, and the majority were found to be immune-relevant by their correspondence to known or putative HLA-restricted T-cell determinants. The conservation of these sequences through the entire recorded DENV genetic history supports their possible value for diagnosis, prophylactic and/or therapeutic applications. The combination of bioinformatics and experimental approaches applied herein provides a framework for large-scale and systematic analysis of conserved and variable sequences of other pathogens, in particular, for rapidly mutating viruses, such as influenza A virus and HIV.

Miotto O, Heiny A, Tan TW, August JT, Brusic V. 2008. Identification of human-to-human transmissibility factors in PB2 proteins of influenza A by large-scale mutual information analysis. BMC Bioinformatics, 9 Suppl 1 (Suppl 1), pp. S18. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The identification of mutations that confer unique properties to a pathogen, such as host range, is of fundamental importance in the fight against disease. This paper describes a novel method for identifying amino acid sites that distinguish specific sets of protein sequences, by comparative analysis of matched alignments. The use of mutual information to identify distinctive residues responsible for functional variants makes this approach highly suitable for analyzing large sets of sequences. To support mutual information analysis, we developed the AVANA software, which utilizes sequence annotations to select sets for comparison, according to user-specified criteria. The method presented was applied to an analysis of influenza A PB2 protein sequences, with the objective of identifying the components of adaptation to human-to-human transmission, and reconstructing the mutation history of these components. RESULTS: We compared over 3,000 PB2 protein sequences of human-transmissible and avian isolates, to produce a catalogue of sites involved in adaptation to human-to-human transmission. This analysis identified 17 characteristic sites, five of which have been present in human-transmissible strains since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Sixteen of these sites are located in functional domains, suggesting they may play functional roles in host-range specificity. The catalogue of characteristic sites was used to derive sequence signatures from historical isolates. These signatures, arranged in chronological order, reveal an evolutionary timeline for the adaptation of the PB2 protein to human hosts. CONCLUSION: By providing the most complete elucidation to date of the functional components participating in PB2 protein adaptation to humans, this study demonstrates that mutual information is a powerful tool for comparative characterization of sequence sets. In addition to confirming previously reported findings, several novel characteristic sites within PB2 are reported. Sequence signatures generated using the characteristic sites catalogue characterize concisely the adaptation characteristics of individual isolates. Evolutionary timelines derived from signatures of early human influenza isolates suggest that characteristic variants emerged rapidly, and remained remarkably stable through subsequent pandemics. In addition, the signatures of human-infecting H5N1 isolates suggest that this avian subtype has low pandemic potential at present, although it presents more human adaptation components than most avian subtypes.

Miotto O, Tan TW, Brusic V. 2008. Rule-based knowledge aggregation for large-scale protein sequence analysis of influenza A viruses. BMC Bioinformatics, 9 Suppl 1 (Suppl 1), pp. S7. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: The explosive growth of biological data provides opportunities for new statistical and comparative analyses of large information sets, such as alignments comprising tens of thousands of sequences. In such studies, sequence annotations frequently play an essential role, and reliable results depend on metadata quality. However, the semantic heterogeneity and annotation inconsistencies in biological databases greatly increase the complexity of aggregating and cleaning metadata. Manual curation of datasets, traditionally favoured by life scientists, is impractical for studies involving thousands of records. In this study, we investigate quality issues that affect major public databases, and quantify the effectiveness of an automated metadata extraction approach that combines structural and semantic rules. We applied this approach to more than 90,000 influenza A records, to annotate sequences with protein name, virus subtype, isolate, host, geographic origin, and year of isolation. RESULTS: Over 40,000 annotated Influenza A protein sequences were collected by combining information from more than 90,000 documents from NCBI public databases. Metadata values were automatically extracted, aggregated and reconciled from several document fields by applying user-defined structural rules. For each property, values were recovered from >/=88.8% of records, with accuracy exceeding 96% in most cases. Because of semantic heterogeneity, each property required up to six different structural rules to be combined. Significant quality differences between databases were found: GenBank documents yield values more reliably than documents extracted from GenPept. Using a simple set of semantic rules and a reasoner, we reconstructed relationships between sequences from the same isolate, thus identifying 7640 isolates. Validation of isolate metadata against a simple ontology highlighted more than 400 inconsistencies, leading to over 3,000 property value corrections. CONCLUSION: To overcome the quality issues inherent in public databases, automated knowledge aggregation with embedded intelligence is needed for large-scale analyses. Our results show that user-controlled intuitive approaches, based on combination of simple rules, can reliably automate various curation tasks, reducing the need for manual corrections to approximately 5% of the records. Emerging semantic technologies possess desirable features to support today's knowledge aggregation tasks, with a potential to bring immediate benefits to this field.

Miotto O, Tan TW, Brusic V. 2007. Rule-based knowledge aggregation for large-scale protein sequence analysis of influenza A viruses Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Network (APBioNet) 6th International Conference on Bioinformatics, InCoB 2007 - Proceedings, 9 (SUPPL. 1), | Show Abstract | Read more

Background: The explosive growth of biological data provides opportunities for new statistical and comparative analyses of large information sets, such as alignments comprising tens of thousands of sequences. In such studies, sequence annotations frequently play an essential role, and reliable results depend on metadata quality. However, the semantic heterogeneity and annotation inconsistencies in biological databases greatly increase the complexity of aggregating and cleaning metadata. Manual curation of datasets, traditionally favoured by life scientists, is impractical for studies involving thousands of records. In this study, we investigate quality issues that affect major public databases, and quantify the effectiveness of an automated metadata extraction approach that combines structural and semantic rules. We applied this approach to more than 90,000 influenza A records, to annotate sequences with protein name, virus subtype, isolate, host, geographic origin, and year of isolation. Results: Over 40,000 annotated Influenza A protein sequences were collected by combining information from more than 90,000 documents from NCBI public databases. Metadata values were automatically extracted, aggregated and reconciled from several document fields by applying user-defined structural rules. For each property, values were recovered from ≥88.8% of records, with accuracy exceeding 96% in most cases. Because of semantic heterogeneity, each property required up to six different structural rules to be combined. Significant quality differences between databases were found: GenBank documents yield values more reliably than documents extracted from GenPept. Using a simple set of semantic rules and a reasoner, we reconstructed relationships between sequences from the same isolate, thus identifying 7640 isolates. Validation of isolate metadata against a simple ontology highlighted more than 400 inconsistencies, leading to over 3,000 property value corrections. Conclusion: To overcome the quality issues inherent in public databases, automated knowledge aggregation with embedded intelligence is needed for large-scale analyses. Our results show that user-controlled intuitive approaches, based on combination of simple rules, can reliably automate various curation tasks, reducing the need for manual corrections to approximately 5% of the records. Emerging semantic technologies possess desirable features to support today's knowledge aggregation tasks, with a potential to bring immediate benefits to this field. © 2006 Brahmachary et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Miotto O, Heiny AT, Tan TW, August JT, Brusic V. 2007. Identification of human-to-human transmissibility factors in PB2 proteins of influenza A by large-scale mutual information analysis Asia Pacific Bioinformatics Network (APBioNet) 6th International Conference on Bioinformatics, InCoB 2007 - Proceedings, 9 (SUPPL. 1), | Show Abstract | Read more

Background: The identification of mutations that confer unique properties to a pathogen, such as host range, is of fundamental importance in the fight against disease. This paper describes a novel method for identifying amino acid sites that distinguish specific sets of protein sequences, by comparative analysis of matched alignments. The use of mutual information to identify distinctive residues responsible for functional variants makes this approach highly suitable for analyzing large sets of sequences. To support mutual information analysis, we developed the AVANA software, which utilizes sequence annotations to select sets for comparison, according to user-specified criteria. The method presented was applied to an analysis of influenza A PB2 protein sequences, with the objective of identifying the components of adaptation to human-to-human transmission, and reconstructing the mutation history of these components. Results: We compared over 3,000 PB2 protein sequences of human-transmissible and avian isolates, to produce a catalogue of sites involved in adaptation to human-to-human transmission. This analysis identified 17 characteristic sites, five of which have been present in human-transmissible strains since the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Sixteen of these sites are located in functional domains, suggesting they may play functional roles in host-range specificity. The catalogue of characteristic sites was used to derive sequence signatures from historical isolates. These signatures, arranged in chronological order, reveal an evolutionary timeline for the adaptation of the PB2 protein to human hosts. Conclusion: By providing the most complete elucidation to date of the functional components participating in PB2 protein adaptation to humans, this study demonstrates that mutual information is a powerful tool for comparative characterization of sequence sets. In addition to confirming previously reported findings, several novel characteristic sites within PB2 are reported. Sequence signatures generated using the characteristic sites catalogue characterize concisely the adaptation characteristics of individual isolates. Evolutionary timelines derived from signatures of early human influenza isolates suggest that characteristic variants emerged rapidly, and remained remarkably stable through subsequent pandemics. In addition, the signatures of human-infecting H5N1 isolates suggest that this avian subtype has low pandemic potential at present, although it presents more human adaptation components than most avian subtypes. © 2006 Brahmachary et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

Heiny AT, Miotto O, Srinivasan KN, Khan AM, Zhang GL, Brusic V, Tan TW, August JT. 2007. Evolutionarily conserved protein sequences of influenza a viruses, avian and human, as vaccine targets. PLoS One, 2 (11), pp. e1190. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Influenza A viruses generate an extreme genetic diversity through point mutation and gene segment exchange, resulting in many new strains that emerge from the animal reservoirs, among which was the recent highly pathogenic H5N1 virus. This genetic diversity also endows these viruses with a dynamic adaptability to their habitats, one result being the rapid selection of genomic variants that resist the immune responses of infected hosts. With the possibility of an influenza A pandemic, a critical need is a vaccine that will recognize and protect against any influenza A pathogen. One feasible approach is a vaccine containing conserved immunogenic protein sequences that represent the genotypic diversity of all current and future avian and human influenza viruses as an alternative to current vaccines that address only the known circulating virus strains. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Methodologies for large-scale analysis of the evolutionary variability of the influenza A virus proteins recorded in public databases were developed and used to elucidate the amino acid sequence diversity and conservation of 36,343 sequences of the 11 viral proteins of the recorded virus isolates of the past 30 years. Technologies were also applied to identify the conserved amino acid sequences from isolates of the past decade, and to evaluate the predicted human lymphocyte antigen (HLA) supertype-restricted class I and II T-cell epitopes of the conserved sequences. Fifty-five (55) sequences of 9 or more amino acids of the polymerases (PB2, PB1, and PA), nucleoprotein (NP), and matrix 1 (M1) proteins were completely conserved in at least 80%, many in 95 to 100%, of the avian and human influenza A virus isolates despite the marked evolutionary variability of the viruses. Almost all (50) of these conserved sequences contained putative supertype HLA class I or class II epitopes as predicted by 4 peptide-HLA binding algorithms. Additionally, data of the Immune Epitope Database (IEDB) include 29 experimentally identified HLA class I and II T-cell epitopes present in 14 of the conserved sequences. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This study of all reported influenza A virus protein sequences, avian and human, has identified 55 highly conserved sequences, most of which are predicted to have immune relevance as T-cell epitopes. This is a necessary first step in the design and analysis of a polyepitope, pan-influenza A vaccine. In addition to the application described herein, these technologies can be applied to other pathogens and to other therapeutic modalities designed to attack DNA, RNA, or protein sequences critical to pathogen function.

Khan AM, Miotto O, Heiny AT, Salmon J, Srinivasan KN, Nascimento EJ, Marques ET, Brusic V, Tan TW, August JT. 2006. A systematic bioinformatics approach for selection of epitope-based vaccine targets. Cell Immunol, 244 (2), pp. 141-147. | Show Abstract | Read more

Epitope-based vaccines provide a new strategy for prophylactic and therapeutic application of pathogen-specific immunity. A critical requirement of this strategy is the identification and selection of T-cell epitopes that act as vaccine targets. This study describes current methodologies for the selection process, with dengue virus as a model system. A combination of publicly available bioinformatics algorithms and computational tools are used to screen and select antigen sequences as potential T-cell epitopes of supertype human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles. The selected sequences are tested for biological function by their activation of T-cells of HLA transgenic mice and of pathogen infected subjects. This approach provides an experimental basis for the design of pathogen specific, T-cell epitope-based vaccines that are targeted to majority of the genetic variants of the pathogen, and are effective for a broad range of differences in human leukocyte antigens among the global human population.

Miotto O, Tan TW, Brusic V. 2005. Supporting the curation of biological databases with reusable text mining. Genome Inform, 16 (2), pp. 32-44. | Show Abstract

Curators of biological databases transfer knowledge from scientific publications, a laborious and expensive manual process. Machine learning algorithms can reduce the workload of curators by filtering relevant biomedical literature, though their widespread adoption will depend on the availability of intuitive tools that can be configured for a variety of tasks. We propose a new method for supporting curators by means of document categorization, and describe the architecture of a curator-oriented tool implementing this method using techniques that require no computational linguistic or programming expertise. To demonstrate the feasibility of this approach, we prototyped an application of this method to support a real curation task: identifying PubMed abstracts that contain allergen cross-reactivity information. We tested the performance of two different classifier algorithms (CART and ANN), applied to both composite and single-word features, using several feature scoring functions. Both classifiers exceeded our performance targets, the ANN classifier yielding the best results. These results show that the method we propose can deliver the level of performance needed to assist database curation.

Auburn S, Serre D, Pearson R, Amato R, Sriprawat K, To S, Handayuni I, Suwanarusk R et al. 2016. Genomic analysis reveals a common breakpoint in amplifications of the Plasmodium vivax multidrug resistance 1 locus in Thailand. J Infect Dis, pp. jiw323-jiw323. | Show Abstract | Read more

In co-endemic regions where mefloquine is used to treat Plasmodium falciparum, drug pressure may select for mefloquine-resistant P. vivax mediated by increased copy number of the multidrug resistance 1 gene (pvmdr1). Surveillance is not undertaken routinely owing in part to methodological challenges in detection of gene amplification. Using genomic data on 88 P. vivax samples from western Thailand, we identified pvmdr1 amplification in 17 isolates, all exhibiting tandem copies of a 37.6 Kb region with identical breakpoints. A novel breakpoint-specific PCR assay was designed to detect the amplification. The assay demonstrated high sensitivity, identifying amplifications in 13 additional, polyclonal infections. Application to 132 further samples identified the common breakpoint in all years tested (2003-2015), with decline in prevalence after 2012 corresponding with local discontinuation of mefloquine regimens. Assessment of the structure of pvmdr1 amplification in other geographic regions will inform on the population-specificity of the breakpoints and underlying amplification mechanisms.

Pearson RD, Amato R, Auburn S, Miotto O, Almagro-Garcia J, Amaratunga C, Suon S, Mao S et al. 2016. Genomic analysis of local variation and recent evolution in Plasmodium vivax. Nat Genet, 48 (8), pp. 959-964. | Show Abstract | Read more

The widespread distribution and relapsing nature of Plasmodium vivax infection present major challenges for the elimination of malaria. To characterize the genetic diversity of this parasite in individual infections and across the population, we performed deep genome sequencing of >200 clinical samples collected across the Asia-Pacific region and analyzed data on >300,000 SNPs and nine regions of the genome with large copy number variations. Individual infections showed complex patterns of genetic structure, with variation not only in the number of dominant clones but also in their level of relatedness and inbreeding. At the population level, we observed strong signals of recent evolutionary selection both in known drug resistance genes and at new loci, and these varied markedly between geographical locations. These findings demonstrate a dynamic landscape of local evolutionary adaptation in the parasite population and provide a foundation for genomic surveillance to guide effective strategies for control and elimination of P. vivax.

MalariaGEN Plasmodium falciparum Community Project. 2016. Genomic epidemiology of artemisinin resistant malaria. Elife, 5 (MARCH2016), | Show Abstract | Read more

The current epidemic of artemisinin resistant Plasmodium falciparum in Southeast Asia is the result of a soft selective sweep involving at least 20 independent kelch13 mutations. In a large global survey, we find that kelch13 mutations which cause resistance in Southeast Asia are present at low frequency in Africa. We show that African kelch13 mutations have originated locally, and that kelch13 shows a normal variation pattern relative to other genes in Africa, whereas in Southeast Asia there is a great excess of non-synonymous mutations, many of which cause radical amino-acid changes. Thus, kelch13 is not currently undergoing strong selection in Africa, despite a deep reservoir of variations that could potentially allow resistance to emerge rapidly. The practical implications are that public health surveillance for artemisinin resistance should not rely on kelch13 data alone, and interventions to prevent resistance must account for local evolutionary conditions, shown by genomic epidemiology to differ greatly between geographical regions.

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. | Show 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.

Mok S, Ashley EA, Ferreira PE, Zhu L, Lin Z, Yeo T, Chotivanich K, Imwong M et al. 2015. Drug resistance. Population transcriptomics of human malaria parasites reveals the mechanism of artemisinin resistance. Science, 347 (6220), pp. 431-435. | Show Abstract | Read more

Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum threatens global efforts to control and eliminate malaria. Polymorphisms in the kelch domain-carrying protein K13 are associated with artemisinin resistance, but the underlying molecular mechanisms are unknown. We analyzed the in vivo transcriptomes of 1043 P. falciparum isolates from patients with acute malaria and found that artemisinin resistance is associated with increased expression of unfolded protein response (UPR) pathways involving the major PROSC and TRiC chaperone complexes. Artemisinin-resistant parasites also exhibit decelerated progression through the first part of the asexual intraerythrocytic development cycle. These findings suggest that artemisinin-resistant parasites remain in a state of decelerated development at the young ring stage, whereas their up-regulated UPR pathways mitigate protein damage caused by artemisinin. The expression profiles of UPR-related genes also associate with the geographical origin of parasite isolates, further suggesting their role in emerging artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Ashley EA, Dhorda M, Fairhurst RM, Amaratunga C, Lim P, Suon S, Sreng S, Anderson JM et al. 2014. Spread of artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. N Engl J Med, 371 (5), pp. 411-423. | Show Abstract | Read more

BACKGROUND: Artemisinin resistance in Plasmodium falciparum has emerged in Southeast Asia and now poses a threat to the control and elimination of malaria. Mapping the geographic extent of resistance is essential for planning containment and elimination strategies. METHODS: Between May 2011 and April 2013, we enrolled 1241 adults and children with acute, uncomplicated falciparum malaria in an open-label trial at 15 sites in 10 countries (7 in Asia and 3 in Africa). Patients received artesunate, administered orally at a daily dose of either 2 mg per kilogram of body weight per day or 4 mg per kilogram, for 3 days, followed by a standard 3-day course of artemisinin-based combination therapy. Parasite counts in peripheral-blood samples were measured every 6 hours, and the parasite clearance half-lives were determined. RESULTS: The median parasite clearance half-lives ranged from 1.9 hours in the Democratic Republic of Congo to 7.0 hours at the Thailand-Cambodia border. Slowly clearing infections (parasite clearance half-life >5 hours), strongly associated with single point mutations in the "propeller" region of the P. falciparum kelch protein gene on chromosome 13 (kelch13), were detected throughout mainland Southeast Asia from southern Vietnam to central Myanmar. The incidence of pretreatment and post-treatment gametocytemia was higher among patients with slow parasite clearance, suggesting greater potential for transmission. In western Cambodia, where artemisinin-based combination therapies are failing, the 6-day course of antimalarial therapy was associated with a cure rate of 97.7% (95% confidence interval, 90.9 to 99.4) at 42 days. CONCLUSIONS: Artemisinin resistance to P. falciparum, which is now prevalent across mainland Southeast Asia, is associated with mutations in kelch13. Prolonged courses of artemisinin-based combination therapies are currently efficacious in areas where standard 3-day treatments are failing. (Funded by the U.K. Department of International Development and others; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT01350856.).

Amaratunga C, Witkowski B, Dek D, Try V, Khim N, Miotto O, Ménard D, Fairhurst RM. 2014. Plasmodium falciparum founder populations in western Cambodia have reduced artemisinin sensitivity in vitro. Antimicrob Agents Chemother, 58 (8), pp. 4935-4937. | Show Abstract | Read more

Reduced Plasmodium falciparum sensitivity to short-course artemisinin (ART) monotherapy manifests as a long parasite clearance half-life. We recently defined three parasite founder populations with long half-lives in Pursat, western Cambodia, where reduced ART sensitivity is prevalent. Using the ring-stage survival assay, we show that these founder populations have reduced ART sensitivity in vitro at the early ring stage of parasite development and that a genetically admixed population contains subsets of parasites with normal or reduced ART sensitivity.

Ariey F, Witkowski B, Amaratunga C, Beghain J, Langlois AC, Khim N, Kim S, Duru V et al. 2014. A molecular marker of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Nature, 505 (7481), pp. 50-55. | Show Abstract | Read more

Plasmodium falciparum resistance to artemisinin derivatives in southeast Asia threatens malaria control and elimination activities worldwide. To monitor the spread of artemisinin resistance, a molecular marker is urgently needed. Here, using whole-genome sequencing of an artemisinin-resistant parasite line from Africa and clinical parasite isolates from Cambodia, we associate mutations in the PF3D7_1343700 kelch propeller domain ('K13-propeller') with artemisinin resistance in vitro and in vivo. Mutant K13-propeller alleles cluster in Cambodian provinces where resistance is prevalent, and the increasing frequency of a dominant mutant K13-propeller allele correlates with the recent spread of resistance in western Cambodia. Strong correlations between the presence of a mutant allele, in vitro parasite survival rates and in vivo parasite clearance rates indicate that K13-propeller mutations are important determinants of artemisinin resistance. K13-propeller polymorphism constitutes a useful molecular marker for large-scale surveillance efforts to contain artemisinin resistance in the Greater Mekong Subregion and prevent its global spread.

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. | Show 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.

Takala-Harrison S, Clark TG, Jacob CG, Cummings MP, Miotto O, Dondorp AM, Fukuda MM, Nosten F et al. 2013. Genetic loci associated with delayed clearance of Plasmodium falciparum following artemisinin treatment in Southeast Asia. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 110 (1), pp. 240-245. | Show Abstract | Read more

The recent emergence of artemisinin-resistant Plasmodium falciparum malaria in western Cambodia could threaten prospects for malaria elimination. Identification of the genetic basis of resistance would provide tools for molecular surveillance, aiding efforts to contain resistance. Clinical trials of artesunate efficacy were conducted in Bangladesh, in northwestern Thailand near the Myanmar border, and at two sites in western Cambodia. Parasites collected from trial participants were genotyped at 8,079 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) using a P. falciparum-specific SNP array. Parasite genotypes were examined for signatures of recent positive selection and association with parasite clearance phenotypes to identify regions of the genome associated with artemisinin resistance. Four SNPs on chromosomes 10 (one), 13 (two), and 14 (one) were significantly associated with delayed parasite clearance. The two SNPs on chromosome 13 are in a region of the genome that appears to be under strong recent positive selection in Cambodia. The SNPs on chromosomes 10 and 13 lie in or near genes involved in postreplication repair, a DNA damage-tolerance pathway. Replication and validation studies are needed to refine the location of loci responsible for artemisinin resistance and to understand the mechanism behind it; however, two SNPs on chromosomes 10 and 13 may be useful markers of delayed parasite clearance in surveillance for artemisinin resistance in Southeast Asia.

Williams AR, Douglas AD, Miura K, Illingworth JJ, Choudhary P, Murungi LM, Furze JM, Diouf A et al. 2012. Enhancing blockade of Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte invasion: assessing combinations of antibodies against PfRH5 and other merozoite antigens. PLoS Pathog, 8 (11), pp. e1002991. | Show Abstract | Read more

No vaccine has yet proven effective against the blood-stages of Plasmodium falciparum, which cause the symptoms and severe manifestations of malaria. We recently found that PfRH5, a P. falciparum-specific protein expressed in merozoites, is efficiently targeted by broadly-neutralizing, vaccine-induced antibodies. Here we show that antibodies against PfRH5 efficiently inhibit the in vitro growth of short-term-adapted parasite isolates from Cambodia, and that the EC(50) values of antigen-specific antibodies against PfRH5 are lower than those against PfAMA1. Since antibody responses elicited by multiple antigens are speculated to improve the efficacy of blood-stage vaccines, we conducted detailed assessments of parasite growth inhibition by antibodies against PfRH5 in combination with antibodies against seven other merozoite antigens. We found that antibodies against PfRH5 act synergistically with antibodies against certain other merozoite antigens, most notably with antibodies against other erythrocyte-binding antigens such as PfRH4, to inhibit the growth of a homologous P. falciparum clone. A combination of antibodies against PfRH4 and basigin, the erythrocyte receptor for PfRH5, also potently inhibited parasite growth. This methodology provides the first quantitative evidence that polyclonal vaccine-induced antibodies can act synergistically against P. falciparum antigens and should help to guide the rational development of future multi-antigen vaccines.

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Scopus

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. | Show 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.

Auburn S, Campino S, Miotto O, Djimde AA, Zongo I, Manske M, Maslen G, Mangano V et al. 2012. Characterization of within-host Plasmodium falciparum diversity using next-generation sequence data. PLoS One, 7 (2), pp. e32891. | Show Abstract | Read more

Our understanding of the composition of multi-clonal malarial infections and the epidemiological factors which shape their diversity remain poorly understood. Traditionally within-host diversity has been defined in terms of the multiplicity of infection (MOI) derived by PCR-based genotyping. Massively parallel, single molecule sequencing technologies now enable individual read counts to be derived on genome-wide datasets facilitating the development of new statistical approaches to describe within-host diversity. In this class of measures the F(WS) metric characterizes within-host diversity and its relationship to population level diversity. Utilizing P. falciparum field isolates from patients in West Africa we here explore the relationship between the traditional MOI and F(WS) approaches. F(WS) statistics were derived from read count data at 86,158 SNPs in 64 samples sequenced on the Illumina GA platform. MOI estimates were derived by PCR at the msp-1 and -2 loci. Significant correlations were observed between the two measures, particularly with the msp-1 locus (P = 5.92×10(-5)). The F(WS) metric should be more robust than the PCR-based approach owing to reduced sensitivity to potential locus-specific artifacts. Furthermore the F(WS) metric captures information on a range of parameters which influence out-crossing risk including the number of clones (MOI), their relative proportions and genetic divergence. This approach should provide novel insights into the factors which correlate with, and shape within-host diversity.

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