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BACKGROUND:In regions where malaria is endemic, individuals are often infected with multiple distinct parasite genotypes, a situation that may impact on evolution of parasite virulence and drug resistance. Most approaches to studying genotypic diversity have involved analysis of a modest number of polymorphic loci, although whole genome sequencing enables a broader characterisation of samples. METHODS:PCR-based microsatellite typing of a panel of ten loci was performed on Plasmodium falciparum in 95 clinical isolates from a highly endemic area in the Republic of Guinea, to characterize within-isolate genetic diversity. Separately, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) data from genome-wide short-read sequences of the same samples were used to derive within-isolate fixation indices (F ws), an inverse measure of diversity within each isolate compared to overall local genetic diversity. The latter indices were compared with the microsatellite results, and also with indices derived by randomly sampling modest numbers of SNPs. RESULTS:As expected, the number of microsatellite loci with more than one allele in each isolate was highly significantly inversely correlated with the genome-wide F ws fixation index (r = -0.88, P < 0.001). However, the microsatellite analysis revealed that most isolates contained mixed genotypes, even those that had no detectable genome sequence heterogeneity. Random sampling of different numbers of SNPs showed that an F ws index derived from ten or more SNPs with minor allele frequencies of >10 % had high correlation (r > 0.90) with the index derived using all SNPs. CONCLUSIONS:Different types of data give highly correlated indices of within-infection diversity, although PCR-based analysis detects low-level minority genotypes not apparent in bulk sequence analysis. When whole-genome data are not obtainable, quantitative assay of ten or more SNPs can yield a reasonably accurate estimate of the within-infection fixation index (F ws).

Original publication




Journal article


Malaria journal

Publication Date





Pathogen Molecular Biology Department, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel St, London, WC1E 7HT, UK.


Humans, Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria, Falciparum, Polymerase Chain Reaction, Genetics, Population, Microsatellite Repeats, Genotype, Polymorphism, Single Nucleotide, Child, Child, Preschool, Infant, Guinea, Female, Male, Coinfection, Genotyping Techniques