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publications population genetic perspective on the origin

evolution and adaptation of plasmodium vivax




Answer to Sharp et al. 2021.

Accepted in FEMS Microbiology 2022

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Malaria is a vector-borne disease caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Plasmodium vivax is the most prevalent human-infecting species in the Americas. However, the origins of this parasite in this continent are still debated. Similarly, it is now accepted that the existence of Plasmodium simium is explained by a P. vivax transfer from humans to monkey in America. However, many uncertainties still exist concerning the origin of the transfer and whether several transfers occurred. In this review, the most recent studies that addressed these questions using genetic and genomic approaches are presented.

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Malaria is considered one of the most important scourges that humanity has faced during its history, being responsible every year for numerous deaths worldwide. The disease is caused by protozoan parasites, among which two species are responsible of the majority of the burden, Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. For these two parasite species, the questions of their origin (how and when they appeared in humans), of their spread throughout the world, as well as how they have adapted to humans have long been of interest to the scientific community. Here, we review the current knowledge that has accumulated on these different questions, thanks in particular to the analysis of the genetic and genomic variability of these parasites and comparison with related Plasmodium species infecting other host species (like non-human primates). In this paper we review the existing body of knowledge, including current research dealing with these questions, focusing particularly on genetic analysis and genomic variability of these parasites and comparison with related Plasmodium species infecting other species of host (such as non-human primates).

Science Advances. 7 : eabc3713 (2021).    See Document    –   See the description sheet
Plasmodium vivax is the most common and widespread human malaria parasite. It was recently proposed that P. vivax originates from sub-Saharan Africa based on the circulation of its closest genetic relatives (P. vivax-like) among African great apes. However, the limited number of genetic markers and samples investigated questions the robustness of this hypothesis. Here, we extensively characterized the genomic variations of 447 human P. vivax strains and 19 ape P. vivax-like strains collected worldwide. Phylogenetic relationships between human and ape Plasmodium strains revealed that P. vivax is a sister clade of P. vivax-like, not included within the radiation of P. vivax-like. By investigating various aspects of P. vivax genetic variation, we identified several notable geographical patterns in summary statistics in function of the increasing geographic distance from Southeast Asia, suggesting that P. vivax may have derived from a single area in Asia through serial founder effects.
Microbial Pathogenesis. 150, 104659 (2021) See Document

Enteroviruses (Picornaviridae) and astroviruses (Astroviridae) cause various diseases in humans and animals, including in non-human primates (NHPs). Some enteroviruses and astroviruses detected in NHPs are genetically related to those infecting humans, indicating the occurrence of interspecies transmissions. In this study, we screened 200 fecal samples of 56 free-ranging mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx) by nested reverse transcription-PCR with primers targeting the VP1 and RdRp genes, to evaluate the diversity of enterovirus and astrovirus infection, respectively, and the associated zoonotic risk. Overall, ten samples from six mandrills were enterovirus-positive (5%), and three samples from three mandrills were astrovirus-positive (1.5%). This is the first evidence of astrovirus infection in mandrills. Phylogenetic analyses based on the VP1 sequences revealed that all ten enterovirus sequences were part of the species Enterovirus J, suggesting low zoonotic risk. Phylogenetic analysis of the three astrovirus sequences showed that they all belonged to the Mamastrovirus genus. Two astrovirus sequences were highly divergent from all human astrovirus sequences (63.4–73% nucleotide identity), while one sequence (AstV-5) suggested cross-species transmission from humans to mandrills. Additional studies are needed to better characterize the identified astroviruses and to confirm whether mandrills are host of astroviruses than can be transmitted to humans.


PLoS Genetics. 17 (2) (2021). See Document


Malaria remains a major public health problem in many countries. Unlike influenza and HIV, where diversity in immunodominant surface antigens is understood geographically to inform disease surveillance, relatively little is known about the global population structure of PfEMP1, the major variant surface antigen of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. The complexity of the var multigene family that encodes PfEMP1 and that diversifies by recombination, has so far precluded its use in malaria surveillance. Recent studies have demonstrated that cost-effective deep sequencing of the region of var genes encoding the PfEMP1 DBLα domain and subsequent classification of within host sequences at 96% identity to define unique DBLα types, can reveal structure and strain dynamics within countries. However, to date there has not been a comprehensive comparison of these DBLα types between countries. By leveraging a bioinformatic approach (jumping hidden Markov model) designed specifically for the analysis of recombination within var genes and applying it to a dataset of DBLα types from 10 countries, we are able to describe population structure of DBLα types at the global scale. The sensitivity of the approach allows for the comparison of the global dataset to ape samples of Plasmodium Laverania species. Our analyses show that the evolution of the parasite population emerging out of Africa underlies current patterns of DBLα type diversity. Most importantly, we can distinguish geographic population structure within Africa between Gabon and Ghana in West Africa and Uganda in East Africa. Our evolutionary findings have translational implications in the context of globalization. Firstly, DBLα type diversity can provide a simple diagnostic framework for geographic surveillance of the rapidly evolving transmission dynamics of P. falciparum. It can also inform efforts to understand the presence or absence of global, regional and local population immunity to major surface antigen variants. Additionally, we identify a number of highly conserved DBLα types that are present globally that may be of biological significance and warrant further characterization.

Mic. Res. Ann. 9 (42) (2020) bstract v
We report the nearly complete genome sequence of an enterovirus 99 strain (Cpz-IJC08) detected in a healthy chimpanzee from the Tchimpounga Sanctuary in the Republic of Congo. According to the phylogeny, Cpz-IJC08 clustered with Cpz-IJC04, a previously identified chimpanzee enterovirus from the same sanctuary, isolated from an animal with signs of acute flaccid paralysis.
Nature MIc. 5 (10) 1306-1306 (2020).See document

Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent agent of human malaria, shares a recent common ancestor with the gorilla parasite P. praefalciparum. Little is known about the other gorilla and chimpanzee-infecting species in the same (Laverania) subgenus as P. falciparum but none of them are capable of establishing repeated infection and transmission in humans. To elucidate underlying mechanisms and the evolutionary history of this subgenus, we have generated multiple genomes from all known Laverania species. The completeness of our dataset allows us to conclude that interspecific gene transfers as well as convergent evolution were important in the evolution of these species. Striking copy number and structural variations were observed within gene families and one, stevor shows a host specific sequence pattern. The complete genome sequence of the closest ancestor of P. falciparum enables us to estimate the timing of the beginning of speciation to be 40,000-60,000 years ago followed by a population bottleneck around 4,000-6,000 years ago. Our data allow us also to search in detail for the features of P. falciparum that made it the only member of the Laverania able to infect and spread in humans.

PLoS NTD. 3 (14) (2020). See Document
More than 200 million malaria clinical cases are reported each year due to Plasmodium vivax, the most widespread Plasmodium species in the world. This species has been neglected and understudied for a long time, due to its lower mortality in comparison with Plasmodium falciparum. A renewed interest has emerged in the past decade with the discovery of antimalarial drug resistance and of severe and even fatal human cases. Nonetheless, today there are still significant gaps in our understanding of the population genetics and evolutionary history of Pvivax, particularly because of a lack of genetic data from Africa. To address these gaps, we genotyped 14 microsatellite loci in 834 samples obtained from 28 locations in 20 countries from around the world. We discuss the worldwide population genetic structure and diversity and the evolutionary origin of Pvivax in the world and its introduction into the Americas. This study demonstrates the importance of conducting genome-wide analyses of Pvivax in order to unravel its complex evolutionary history.
PLoS Path. 16 (2) (2020). See Document
The absence of the Duffy protein at the surface of erythrocytes was considered for decades to confer full protection against Plasmodium vivax as this blood group is the receptor for the key parasite ligand Pvivax Duffy binding protein (PvDBP). However, it is now clear that the parasite is able to break through this protection and induce clinical malaria in Duffy-negative people, although the underlying mechanisms are still not understood. Here, we briefly review the evidence of Duffy-negative infections by Pvivax and summarize the current hypothesis at the basis of this invasion process. We discuss those in the perspective of malaria-elimination challenges, notably in African countries.
Evol. 68, 43–46 (2019). See Document
Astroviruses (AstVs) are mostly responsible for mild to severe gastroenteritis infections in humans and animals. AstVs infect a wide range of host species, have a large genetic diversity with different circulating variants and are thus a high zoonotic risk for human populations. Among these host species, rodents are known to harbor several AstVs variants. Therefore, it is important to identify in rodent species which AstVs are circulating and evaluate their potential zoonotic risk for humans. In this context, this study aimed to screen the presence of AstVs in 267 rodents trapped in 2012 in Franceville and Makokou, two cities in Gabon. RNA extracted from grinded intestines were used for the screening of AstVs by amplification of a conserved region of the RNA dependent RNA polymerase. Results report the identification of AstVs in 12 individuals (4.6% rate), belonging to three different species including Rattus rattus, Mus musculus and Hybomys univittatus. These findings report the first identification of AstVs in R. rattus and H. univittatus. The phylogenetic analyses indicate host specificity of rodents AstVs. The absence of rodent AstVs within the human AstV clade suggests a low rate of interspecies transmission of these viruses and consequently a low zoonotic risk.
Journal of Epidemiological Research. 5 (2) 6 (2019).See Document
The viruses of the Paramyxoviridae family are known to infect a wide range of animals, including primates, birds, rodents, carnivores, bats, ungulates, snakes, cetaceans and humans. This study aims to investigate the circulation of paramyxoviruses in five potential host species groups (humans, non-human primates, rodents, shrews, and bats) living in the same environments in three conservation programs dedicated to non-human primates, namely the Lékédi park, the primatology center of the International Center for Medical Research of Franceville and the Gorilla Protection Program, located in Gabon. We tested 35 workers, 343 NHPs (8 species), 141 bats (4 species), 420 rodents (5 species) and 10 shrews, sampled between 2013 and 2014. Faecal and organ samples were analyzed using three heminested reverse transcription-PCR (hnRT-PCR). All the 1884 samples tested were negative for PV detection. Further studies spanning a greater period of time are needed to investigate PV circulation patterns in these conservation programs.
Int J Parasitol Parasites Wildl 10, 241–251 (2019). See Document

Unravelling the determinants of host variation in susceptibility and exposure to parasite infections, infection dynamics and the consequences of parasitism on host health is of paramount interest to understand the evolution of complex host-parasite interactions. In this study, we evaluated the determinants, temporal changes and physiological correlates of Plasmodium infections in a large natural population of mandrills (Mandrillus sphinx). Over six consecutive years, we obtained detailed parasitological and physiological data from 100 male and female mandrills of all ages. The probability of infection by Plasmodium gonderi and P. mandrilli was elevated (ca. 40%) but most infections were chronical and dynamic, with several cases of parasite switching and clearance. Positive co-infections also occurred between both parasites. Individual age and sex influenced the probability of infections with some differences between parasites: while P. mandrilli appeared to infect its hosts rather randomly, P. gonderi particularly infected middle-aged mandrills. Males were also more susceptible to P. gonderi than females and were more likely to be infected by this parasite at the beginning of an infection by the simian immunodeficiency virus. P. gonderi, and to a lesser extent P. mandrilli, influenced mandrills’ physiology: skin temperatures and neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio were both impacted, generally depending on individual age and sex. These results highlight the ecological complexity of Plasmodium infections in nonhuman primates and the efforts that need to be done to decipher the epidemiology of such parasites.

10, 117–124 (2019). See Document

Malaria parasites infect a wide range of vertebrate hosts, such as reptiles, birds and mammals (i.e., primates, ungulates, bats, and rodents). Four Plasmodium species and their subspecies infect African Muridae. Since their discoveries in the 1940s, these rodent Plasmodium species have served as biological models to explore many aspects of the biology of malaria agents and their interactions with their hosts. Despite that, surprisingly, little is known about their ecology, natural history and evolution. Most field studies on these parasites, performed from the 1940s to the early 1980s, showed that all rodent Plasmodium species infect only one main host species, the thicket rat. In the present study, we re-explored the diversity of Plasmodium parasites infecting rodent species living in peridomestic habitats in Gabon, Central Africa. Using molecular approaches, we found that at least two Plasmodium species (Plasmodium vinckei and Plasmodium yoelii) circulated among five rodent species (including the invasive species Mus musculus). This suggests that the host range of these parasites might be larger than previously considered. Our results also showed that the diversity of these parasites could be higher than currently recognized, with the discovery of a new phylogenetic lineage that could represent a new species of rodent Plasmodium.

Nat Microbiol 3, 687–697 (2018).See Document


Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent agent of human malaria, shares a recent common ancestor with the gorilla parasite Plasmodium praefalciparum. Little is known about the other gorilla- and chimpanzee-infecting species in the same (Laverania) subgenus as P. falciparum, but none of them are capable of establishing repeated infection and transmission in humans. To elucidate underlying mechanisms and the evolutionary history of this subgenus, we have generated multiple genomes from all known Laverania species. The completeness of our dataset allows us to conclude that interspecific gene transfers, as well as convergent evolution, were important in the evolution of these species. Striking copy number and structural variations were observed within gene families and one, stevor, shows a host-specific sequence pattern. The complete genome sequence of the closest ancestor of P. falciparum enables us to estimate the timing of the beginning of speciation to be 40,000-60,000 years ago followed by a population bottleneck around 4,000-6,000 years ago. Our data allow us also to search in detail for the features of P. falciparum that made it the only member of the Laverania able to infect and spread in humans.

PLoS Biol. 16, e2006035 (2018).. See Document
Although Plasmodium vivax is responsible for the majority of malaria infections outside Africa, little is known about its evolution and pathway to humans. Its closest genetic relative, Pvivax-like, was discovered in African great apes and is hypothesized to have given rise to Pvivax in humans. To unravel the evolutionary history and adaptation of Pvivax to different host environments, we generated using long- and short-read sequence technologies 2 new Pvivax-like reference genomes and 9 additional Pvivax-like genotypes. Analyses show that the genomes of Pvivax and Pvivax-like are highly similar and colinear within the core regions. Phylogenetic analyses clearly show that Pvivax-like parasites form a genetically distinct clade from Pvivax. Concerning the relative divergence dating, we show that the evolution of Pvivax in humans did not occur at the same time as the other agents of human malaria, thus suggesting that the transfer of Plasmodium parasites to humans happened several times independently over the history of the Homo genus. We further identify several key genes that exhibit signatures of positive selection exclusively in the human Pvivax parasites. Two of these genes have been identified to also be under positive selection in the other main human malaria agent, Pfalciparum, thus suggesting their key role in the evolution of the ability of these parasites to infect humans or their anthropophilic vectors. Finally, we demonstrate that some gene families important for red blood cell (RBC) invasion (a key step of the life cycle of these parasites) have undergone lineage-specific evolution in the human parasite (e.g., reticulocyte-binding proteins [RBPs]).
Ecol Evol 8, 10578–10586 (2018). See Document
The order Haemosporidia gathers many protozoan parasites which are known to infect many host species and groups. Until recently, the studies on haemosporidian parasites primarily focused on the genus Plasmodium among a wide range of hosts. Genera, like the genus Hepatocystis, have received far less attention. In the present study, we present results of a survey of the diversity of Hepatocystis infecting bats and monkeys living in a same area in Gabon (Central Africa). Phylogenetic analyses revealed a large diversity of Hepatocystis lineages circulating among bats and monkeys, among which certain were previously observed in other African areas. Both groups of hosts harbor parasites belonging to distinct genetic clades and no transfers of parasites were observed between bats and monkeys. Finally, within each host group, no host specificity or geographical clustering was observed for the bat or the primate Hepatocystis lineages.
Implications for epidemic transmission and surveillance. Ecol Evol 7, 9376–9390 (2017). See Document
Strong founder effects resulting from human migration out of Africa have led to geographic variation in single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and microsatellites (MS) of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. This is particularly striking in South America where two major founder populations of P. falciparum have been identified that are presumed to have arisen from the transatlantic slave trade. Given the importance of the major variant surface antigen of the blood stages of P. falciparum as both a virulence factor and target of immunity, we decided to investigate the population genetics of the genes encoding “Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1” (PfEMP1) among several countries in South America, in order to evaluate the transmission patterns of malaria in this continent. Deep sequencing of the DBLα domain of var genes from 128 P. falciparum isolates from five locations in South America was completed using a 454 high throughput sequencing protocol. Striking geographic variation in var DBLα sequences, similar to that seen for SNPs and MS markers, was observed. Colombia and French Guiana had distinct var DBLα sequences, whereas Peru and Venezuela showed an admixture. The importance of such geographic variation to herd immunity and malaria vaccination is discussed.

. Infect. Genet. Evol. 50, 128–132 (2017). See Document


One key process of the life cycle of pathogens is their mode of reproduction. Indeed, this fundamental biological process conditions the multiplication and the transmission of genes and thus the propagation of diseases in the environment. Reproductive strategies of protozoan parasites have been a subject of debate for many years, principally due to the difficulty in making direct observations of sexual reproduction (i.e. genetic recombination). Traditionally, these parasites were considered as characterized by a preeminent clonal structure. Nevertheless, with the development of elaborate culture experiments, population genetics and evolutionary and population genomics, several studies suggested that most of these pathogens were also characterized by constitutive genetic recombination events. In this opinion, we focused on Leishmania parasites, pathogens responsible of leishmaniases, a major public health issue. We first discuss the evolutionary advantages of a mixed mating reproductive strategy, then we review the evidence of genetic exchange, and finally we detail available tools to detect naturally occurring genetic recombination in Leishmania parasites and more generally in protozoan parasites.

PLoS ONE 12, e0169067 (2017). See Document
Enteroviruses (EVs) belong to the family Picornaviridae and are responsible for mild to severe diseases in mammals including humans and non-human primates (NHP). Simian EVs were first discovered in the 1950s in the Old World Monkeys and recently in wild chimpanzee, gorilla and mandrill in Cameroon. In the present study, we screened by PCR EVs in 600 fecal samples of wild apes and monkeys that were collected at four sites in Gabon. A total of 32 samples were positive for EVs (25 from mandrills, 7 from chimpanzees, none from gorillas). The phylogenetic analysis of VP1 and VP2 genes showed that EVs identified in chimpanzees were members of two human EV species, EV-A and EV-B, and those identified in mandrills were members of the human species EV-B and the simian species EV-J. The identification of two novel enterovirus types, EV-B112 in a chimpanzee and EV-B113 in a mandrill, suggests these NHPs could be potential sources of new EV types. The identification of EV-B107 and EV90 that were previously found in humans indicates cross-species transfers. Also the identification of chimpanzee-derived EV110 in a mandrill demonstrated a wide host range of this EV. Further research of EVs in NHPs would help understanding emergence of new types or variants, and evaluating the real risk of cross-species transmission for humans as well for NHPs populations.
Ecol Evol 7, 7578–7584 (2017). See Document
Most emerging infectious diseases are zoonoses originating from wildlife among which vector-borne diseases constitute a major risk for global human health. Understanding the transmission routes of mosquito-borne pathogens in wildlife crucially depends on recording mosquito blood-feeding patterns. During an extensive longitudinal survey to study sylvatic anophelines in two wildlife reserves in Gabon, we collected 2,415 mosquitoes of which only 0.3% were blood-fed. The molecular analysis of the blood meals contained in guts indicated that all the engorged mosquitoes fed on wild ungulates. This direct approach gave only limited insights into the trophic behavior of the captured mosquitoes. Therefore, we developed a complementary indirect approach that exploits the occurrence of natural infections by host-specific haemosporidian parasites to infer Anopheles trophic behavior. This method showed that 74 infected individuals carried parasites of great apes (58%), ungulates (30%), rodents (11%) and bats (1%). Accordingly, on the basis of haemosporidian host specificity, we could infer different feeding patterns. Some mosquito species had a restricted host range (An. nili only fed on rodents, whereas An. carnevalei, An. coustani, An. obscurus, and An. paludis only fed on wild ungulates). Other species had a wider host range (An. gabonensis could feed on rodents and wild ungulates, whereas An. moucheti and An. vinckei bit rodents, wild ungulates and great apes). An. marshallii was the species with the largest host range (rodents, wild ungulates, great apes, and bats). The indirect method substantially increased the information that could be extracted from the sample by providing details about host-feeding patterns of all the mosquito species collected (both fed and unfed). Molecular sequences of hematophagous arthropods and their parasites will be increasingly available in the future; exploitation of such data with the approach we propose here should provide key insights into the feeding patterns of vectors and the ecology of vector-borne diseases.

Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 114, E4103–E4111 (2017). See Document


Existing theory on competition for hosts between pathogen strains has proposed that immune selection can lead to the maintenance of strain structure consisting of discrete, weakly overlapping antigenic repertoires. This prediction of strain theory has conceptual overlap with fundamental ideas in ecology on niche partitioning and limiting similarity between coexisting species in an ecosystem, which oppose the hypothesis of neutral coexistence. For Plasmodium falciparum, strain theory has been specifically proposed in relation to the major surface antigen of the blood stage, known as PfEMP1 and encoded by the multicopy multigene family known as the var genes. Deep sampling of the DBLα domain of var genes in the local population of Bakoumba, West Africa, was completed to define whether patterns of repertoire overlap support a role of immune selection under the opposing force of high outcrossing, a characteristic of areas of intense malaria transmission. Using a 454 high-throughput sequencing protocol, we report extremely high diversity of the DBLα domain and a large parasite population with DBLα repertoires structured into nonrandom patterns of overlap. Such population structure, significant for the high diversity of var genes that compose it at a local level, supports the existence of “strains” characterized by distinct var gene repertoires. Nonneutral, frequency-dependent competition would be at play and could underlie these patterns. With a computational experiment that simulates an intervention similar to mass drug administration, we argue that the observed repertoire structure matters for the antigenic var diversity of the parasite population remaining after intervention.

J. Parasitol. 103, 330–337 (2017). See Document


Haemosporidian parasites are protozoans that infect many different vertebrate hosts. Re-examination of the diversity of haemosporidian parasites, using molecular tools, has generally led to rearrangements of traditional classifications. In this study, we explored the diversity of haemosporidian parasites infecting some species of reptile and birds living in the forests of Gabon, Central Africa, by analyzing a collection of 128 samples of reptiles and birds. We found that samples from 2 tortoise species (Pelusios castaneus and Kinixys erosa) and 3 bird species (Turtur aferCeratogymna atrata, and Agelastes niger) were infected by Haemocystidium spp. and Parahaemoproteus spp., respectively. From an ecological point of view, these lineages of parasites do not show host specificity because we have found them in several host species (2 tortoise and 3 bird species) that come from different areas of Gabon forest which are infected with these parasites. Also, our phylogenetic analyses revealed that the obtained lineages are related to isolates from other continents found in the same groups of vertebrates. Thus, our results show that haemosporidian parasites are also infecting central African vertebrates and that new lineages of these parasites are circulating in wild animals of the Gabon forest.

© American Society of Parasitologists 2017

Elife 6, (2017). See Document


About 60% of emerging infectious diseases in humans are of zoonotic origin. Their increasing number requires the development of new methods for early detection and monitoring of infectious agents in wildlife. Here, we investigated whether blood meals from hematophagous flies could be used to identify the infectious agents circulating in wild vertebrates. To this aim, 1230 blood-engorged flies were caught in the forests of Gabon. Identified blood meals (30%) were from 20 vertebrate species including mammals, birds and reptiles. Among them, 9% were infected by different extant malaria parasites among which some belonged to known parasite species, others to new parasite species or to parasite lineages for which only the vector was known. This study demonstrates that using hematophagous flies as ‘flying syringes’ constitutes an interesting approach to investigate blood-borne pathogen diversity in wild vertebrates and could be used as an early detection tool of zoonotic pathogens.

The case of Plasmodium species and Duffy-Negativity in human populations. Trends Parasitol. 33(1):21-29. (2017) See Document

Understanding how parasites can impact host evolution has been an extremely active area of research in evolutionary biology and parasitology.
Duffy-negativity is a blood disorder, nearly fixed in African populations, thought to have evolved in response to malaria as it confers nearly complete resistance against Plasmodium vivax.
We review the evidence for and against such dogma, but highlight that it is very unlikely that P. vivax could be the only selective pressure responsible for the patterns observed.
We offer another hypothesis suggesting that the cross-talk between Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax in coinfected children could represent a more parsimonious explanation for the near fixation of Duffy-negativity in human populations that are likely to have been historically exposed to both parasites.
In addition to suggesting a new hypothesis to explain Duffy-negativity in Africa, we also show, for the first time, the possibility that parasite–parasite interactions, which are increasingly documented across all different host species, could be strongly involved in host evolution.
Malarial infections have long been recognized as a driver of human evolution, as demonstrated by the influence of Plasmodium falciparum on sickle-cell anemia persistence. Duffy-negativity is another blood disorder thought to have been selected because it confers nearly complete resistance against Plasmodium vivax infection. Recent evidence suggests that the benefits of being Duffy-negative cannot be expected to play a strong selective pressure on humans, whereas its costs cannot be considered as negligible. Here, we suggest that the cross-talk between P. falciparum and P. vivax in coinfected children could represent the most parsimonious explanation of the frequency of Duffy-negativity. We discuss how this new hypothesis could be tested and call for a reconsideration of the evolution of the Duffy-negative group.

Acta Virol. 60, 386–392 (2016). See Document

Abstract: Astroviruses are emerging RNA viruses that cause enteropathogenic infections in humans and in other mammals. The identification of astroviruses in a wide range of animals highlights the zoonotic importance of these viruses. Bats can harbor many different viruses, among which some are highly pathogenic for humans (for instance, Nipah, Ebola and SARS coronavirus), and also several astroviruses. As some RNA viruses can be directly transmitted from bats to humans, it is crucial to collect data about their frequency, genetic diversity and phylogenetic characterization. In this study, we report the molecular identification of 44 new astroviruses (with a detection rate of 4.5%) in 962 apparently healthy bats that belong to five different species and that were captured in different caves in North-East Gabon, Central Africa. Our results show that bat astroviruses form a group that is genetically distinct from astroviruses infecting other mammals. Moreover, these astroviruses showed an important genetic diversity and low host restriction in bat species.

Int. J. Parasitol. 46, 737–744 (2016). See Document


Recent studies have revealed a large diversity of Plasmodium spp. among African great apes. Some of these species are related to Plasmodium falciparum, the most virulent agent of human malaria (subgenus Laverania), and others to Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium vivax (subgenus Plasmodium), three other human malaria agents. Laverania parasites exhibit strict host specificity in their natural environment. Plasmodium reichenowi, Plasmodium billcollinsi, Plasmodium billbrayi and Plasmodium gaboni infect only chimpanzees, while Plasmodium praefalciparum, Plasmodium blacklocki and Plasmodium adleri are restricted to gorillas and Plasmodium falciparum is pandemic in humans. This host specificity may be due to genetic and/or environmental factors. Infrastructures hosting captive primates, such as sanctuaries and health centres, usually concentrate different primate species, thus favouring pathogen exchanges. Using molecular tools, we analysed blood samples from captive non-human primates living in Gabon to evaluate the risk of Plasmodium spp. transfers between host species. We also included blood samples from workers taking care of primates to assess whether primate-human parasite transfers occurred. We detected four transfers of Plasmodium from gorillas towards chimpanzees, one from chimpanzees to gorillas, three from humans towards chimpanzees and one from humans to mandrills. No simian Plasmodium was found in the blood samples from humans working with primates. These findings demonstrate that the genetic barrier that determines the apparent host specificity of Laverania is not completely impermeable and that parasite exchanges between gorillas and chimpanzees are possible in confined environments.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 113, 5329–5334 (2016). See Document


Recent studies have highlighted the large diversity of malaria parasites infecting African great apes (subgenus Laverania) and their strong host specificity. Although the existence of genetic incompatibilities preventing the cross-species transfer may explain host specificity, the existence of vectors with a high preference for a determined host represents another possibility. To test this hypothesis, we undertook a 15-mo-long longitudinal entomological survey in two forest regions of Gabon, where wild apes live, at different heights under the canopy. More than 2,400 anopheline mosquitoes belonging to 18 species were collected. Among them, only three species of Anopheles were found infected with ape PlasmodiumAnopheles vinckeiAnopheles moucheti, and Anopheles marshallii. Their role in transmission was confirmed by the detection of the parasites in their salivary glands. Among these species, An. vinckei showed significantly the highest prevalence of infection and was shown to be able to transmit parasites of both chimpanzees and gorillas. Transmission was also shown to be conditioned by seasonal factors and by the heights of capture under the canopy. Moreover, human landing catches of sylvan Anopheles demonstrated the propensity of these three vector species to feed on humans when available. Our results suggest therefore that the strong host specificity observed in the Laveranias is not linked to a specific association between the vertebrate host and the vector species and highlight the potential role of these vectors as bridge between apes and humans.

. PLoS ONE 11, e0148958 (2016). See Document


Re-examination, using molecular tools, of the diversity of haemosporidian parasites (among which the agents of human malaria are the best known) has generally led to rearrangements of traditional classifications. In this study, we explored the diversity of haemosporidian parasites infecting vertebrate species (particularly mammals, birds and reptiles) living in the forests of Gabon (Central Africa), by analyzing a collection of 492 bushmeat samples. We found that samples from five mammalian species (four duiker and one pangolin species), one bird and one turtle species were infected by haemosporidian parasites. In duikers (from which most of the infected specimens were obtained), we demonstrated the existence of at least two distinct parasite lineages related to Polychromophilus species (i.e., bat haemosporidian parasites) and to sauropsid Plasmodium (from birds and lizards). Molecular screening of sylvatic mosquitoes captured during a longitudinal survey revealed the presence of these haemosporidian parasite lineages also in several Anopheles species, suggesting a potential role in their transmission. Our results show that, differently from what was previously thought, several independent clades of haemosporidian parasites (family Plasmodiidae) infect mammals and are transmitted by anopheline mosquitoes.

J. Clin. Virol. 64, 144–152 (2015). See Document


Chikungunya virus (CHIKV) is an alphavirus of the Togaviridae family that causes chronic and incapacitating arthralgia in human populations. Since its discovery in 1952, CHIKV was responsible for sporadic and infrequent outbreaks. However, since 2005, global Chikungunya outbreaks have occurred, inducing some fatalities and associated with severe and chronic morbidity. Chikungunya is thus considered as an important re-emerging public health problem in both tropical and temperate countries, where the distribution of the Aedes mosquito vectors continues to expand. This review highlights the most recent advances in our knowledge and understanding of the epidemiology, biology, treatment and vaccination strategies of CHIKV.

J. Clin. Virol. 64, 111–119 (2015). See Document


Ebolaviruses and Marburgviruses (family Filoviridae) are among the most virulent pathogens for humans and great apes causing severe haemorrhagic fever and death within a matter of days. This group of viruses is characterized by a linear, non-segmented, single-stranded RNA genome of negative polarity. The overall burden of filovirus infections is minimal and negligible compared to the devastation caused by malnutrition and other infectious diseases prevalent in Africa such as malaria, dengue or tuberculosis. In this paper, we review the knowledge gained on the eco/epidemiology, the pathogenesis and the disease control measures for Marburg and Ebola viruses developed over the last 15 years. The overall progress is promising given the little attention that these pathogen have achieved in the past; however, more is to come over the next decade given the more recent interest in these pathogens as potential public and animal health concerns. Licensing of therapeutic and prophylactic options may be achievable over the next 5-10 years.

Trends Parasitol. 31, 52–59 (2015). See Document


Leishmaniases remain a major public health problem. Despite the development of elaborate experimental techniques and sophisticated statistical tools, how these parasites evolve, adapt themselves to new environmental compartments and hosts, and develop resistance to new drugs remains unclear. Leishmania parasites constitute a complex model from a biological, ecological, and epidemiological point of view but also with respect to their genetics and phylogenetics. With this in view, we seek to outline the criteria, caveats, and confounding factors to be considered for Leishmania population genetic studies. We examine how the taxonomic complexity, heterozygosity, intraspecific and interspecific recombination, aneuploidy, and ameiotic recombination of Leishmania intersect with population genetic studies of this parasite.

Virol. 89, 1456–1460 (2015). See Document


Lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV) can cause acute fatal disease on all continents but was never detected in Africa. We report the first detection of LCMV RNA in a common European house mouse (Mus musculus domesticus) in Africa. Phylogenetic analyses show a close relationship with North American strains. These findings suggest that there is a risk of the appearance of LCMV acute encephalitis cases. This is a perfect example of virus dissemination by its natural host that may have dramatic public health consequences.

Malar. J. 14, 395 (2015). See Document



There have been many reports on the population genetic structure of Plasmodium falciparum from different endemic regions especially sub-Saharan Africa. However, few studies have been performed on neglected populations, such as the Pygmy populations. In this study, the population genetic structure of P. falciparum was investigated in the Baka Pygmies of Gabon and compared to that observed in neighboring villages composed mostly of Bantu farmers.


A total of 342 blood samples were collected from 170 Baka Pygmies and 172 Bantus in the north of Gabon (Woleu Ntem Province). Plasmodium infections were characterized by sequencing a portion of the parasite cytochrome b gene. Population genetic structure of P. falciparum in the different villages was analysed using microsatellite markers and genes coding for antigenic proteins (MSP1, MSP2, GLURP, and EBA-175).


Overall, prevalence of P. falciparum was around 57 % and no significant difference of prevalence was observed between Pygmies and Bantus. No significant differences of population genetic structure of P. falciparum was found between Pygmy and Bantu people except for one antigen-coding gene, glurp, for which genetic data suggested the existence of a potentially disruptive selection acting on this gene in the two types of populations. The genetic structure of P. falciparum followed a pattern of isolation by distance at the scale of the study.


The prevalence and genetic diversity of P. falciparum observed in Baka demonstrates a significant transmission of the parasite in this population, and some exchanges of parasites with Bantu neighbours. Despite that, some antigen-coding genes seem to have had a particular evolutionary trajectory in certain Pygmy populations due to specific local human and/or mosquito characteristics.

PLoS ONE 10, e0136700 (2015). See Document 


Enteroviruses, members of the Picornaviridae family, are ubiquitous viruses responsible for mild to severe infections in human populations around the world. In 2010 Pointe-Noire, Republic of Congo recorded an outbreak of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) in the humans, caused by wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1). One month later, in the Tchimpounga sanctuary near Pointe-Noire, a chimpanzee developed signs similar to AFP, with paralysis of the lower limbs. In the present work, we sought to identify the pathogen, including viral and bacterial agents, responsible for this illness. In order to identify the causative agent, we evaluated a fecal specimen by PCR and sequencing. A Human enterovirus C, specifically of the EV-C99 type was potentially responsible for the illness in this chimpanzee. To rule out other possible causative agents, we also investigated the bacteriome and the virome using next generation sequencing. The majority of bacterial reads obtained belonged to commensal bacteria (95%), and the mammalian virus reads matched mainly with viruses of the Picornaviridae family (99%), in which enteroviruses were the most abundant (99.6%). This study thus reports the first identification of a chimpanzee presenting AFP most likely caused by an enterovirus and demonstrates once again the cross-species transmission of a human pathogen to an ape.

Malar. J. 14, 220 (2015). See Document


Although Plasmodium infections have never been clearly associated with symptoms in non-human primates, the question of the pathogenicity of Plasmodium parasites in non-human primates still remains unanswered. A young chimpanzee, followed before and after release to a sanctuary, in a semi-free ranging enclosure located in an equatorial forest, showed fever and strong anaemia associated with a high Plasmodium reichenowi infection, shortly after release. The animal recovered from anaemia after several months despite recurrent infection with other Plasmodium species. This may be the first description of malaria-like symptoms in a chimpanzee infected with Plasmodium.

Sci. U.S.A. 112, 7051–7054 (2015). See Document


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic disorder that poses a serious health threat in tropical Africa, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health priority. Its persistence in human populations has been attributed to the resistance it provides to Plasmodium falciparum malaria in its heterozygous state, called sickle cell trait (SCT). Because of migration, SCT is becoming common outside tropical countries: It is now the most important genetic disorder in France, affecting one birth for every 2,400, and one of the most common in the United States. We assess the strength of the association between SCT and malaria, using current data for both SCT and malaria infections. A total of 3,959 blood samples from 195 villages distributed over the entire Republic of Gabon were analyzed. Hemoglobin variants were identified by using HPLCy (HPLC). Infections by three species of Plasmodium were detected by PCR followed by sequencing of a 201-bp fragment of cytochrome b. An increase of 10% in P. falciparum malaria prevalence is associated with an increase by 4.3% of SCT carriers. An increase of 10 y of age is associated with an increase by 5.5% of SCT carriers. Sex is not associated with SCT. These strong associations show that malaria remains a selective factor in current human populations, despite the progress of medicine and the actions undertaken to fight this disease. Our results provide evidence that evolution is still present in humans, although this is sometimes questioned by scientific, political, or religious personalities.

PLoS ONE 10, e0126933 (2015). See Document


African great apes are naturally infected by a multitude of Plasmodium species most of them recently discovered, among which several are closely related to human malaria agents. However, it is still unknown whether these animals can serve as source of infections for humans living in their vicinity. To evaluate this possibility, we analysed the nature of Plasmodium infections from a bank of 4281 human blood samples collected in 210 villages of Gabon, Central Africa. Among them, 2255 were detected positive to Plasmodium using molecular methods (Plasmodium Cytochrome b amplification). A high throughput sequencing technology (454 GS-FLX Titanium technology, Roche) was then used to identify the Plasmodium species present within each positive sample. Overall, we identified with confidence only three species infecting humans in Gabon: PfalciparumPmalariae and Povale. None of the species known to infect non-human primates in Central Africa was found. Our study shows that ape Plasmodium parasites of the subgenus Laverania do not constitute a frequent source of infection for humans. It also suggests that some strong host genetic barriers must exist to prevent the cross species transmission of ape Plasmodium in a context of ever increasing contacts between humans and wildlife.

Malar. J. 14, 111 (2015). See Document



Until 2009, the Laverania subgenus counted only two representatives: Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium reichenowi. The recent development of non-invasive methods allowed re-exploration of plasmodial diversity in African apes. Although a large number of great ape populations have now been studied regarding Plasmodium infections in Africa, there are still vast areas of their distribution that remained unexplored. Gabon constitutes an important part of the range of western central African great ape subspecies (Pan troglodytes troglodytes and Gorilla gorilla gorilla), but has not been studied so far. In the present study, the diversity of Plasmodium species circulating in great apes in Gabon was analysed.


The analysis of 1,261 faecal samples from 791 chimpanzees and 470 gorillas collected from 24 sites all over Gabon was performed. Plasmodium infections were characterized by amplification and sequencing of a portion of the Plasmodium cytochrome b gene.


The analysis of the 1,261 samples revealed that at least six Plasmodium species circulate in great apes in Gabon (Plasmodium praefalciparum, Plasmodium gorA (syn Plasmodium adleri), Plasmodium gorB (syn Plasmodium blacklocki) in gorillas and Plasmodium gaboni, P. reichenowi and Plasmodium billcollinsi in chimpanzees). No new phylogenetic lineages were discovered. The average infection rate was 21.3% for gorillas and 15.4% for chimpanzees. A logistic regression showed that the probability of infection was significantly dependent on the freshness of the droppings but not of the host species or of the average pluviometry of the months of collection.

Mol. Ecol. 23, 1979–1993 (2014). See Document


Pathogens, which have recently colonized a new host species or new populations of the same host, are interesting models for understanding how populations may evolve in response to novel environments. During its colonization of South America from Africa, Plasmodium falciparum, the main agent of malaria, has been exposed to new conditions in distinctive new human populations (Amerindian and populations of mixed origins) that likely exerted new selective pressures on the parasite’s genome. Among the genes that might have experienced strong selective pressures in response to these environmental changes, the eba genes (erythrocyte-binding antigens genes), which are involved in the invasion of the human red blood cells, constitute good candidates. In this study, we analysed, in South America, the polymorphism of three eba genes (eba-140, eba-175, eba-181) and compared it to the polymorphism observed in African populations. The aim was to determine whether these genes faced selective pressures in South America distinct from what they experienced in Africa. Patterns of genetic variability of these genes were compared to the patterns observed at two housekeeping genes (adsl and serca) and 272 SNPs to separate adaptive effects from demographic effects. We show that, conversely to Africa, eba-140 seemed to be under stronger diversifying selection in South America than eba-175. In contrast, eba-181 did not show any sign of departure from neutrality. These changes in the patterns of selection on the eba genes could be the consequence of changes in the host immune response, the host receptor polymorphisms and/or the ability of the parasite to silence or express differentially its invasion proteins.

Genome Announc 2, (2014). See Document


Sapoviruses, which are members of the Caliciviridae family, are small nonenveloped viruses known to infect a large spectrum of mammalian hosts. We report here the first complete genome sequences of two genogroup I sapoviruses isolated from fecal samples from chimpanzees living in the Tchimpounga sanctuary, Republic of Congo.

PLoS ONE 8, e76924 (2013). See Document


Apolipoprotein E is a monomeric protein secreted by the liver and responsible for the transport of plasma cholesterol and triglycerides. The APOE gene encodes 3 isoforms Ɛ4, Ɛ3 and Ɛ2 with APOE Ɛ4 associated with higher plasma cholesterol levels and increased pathogenesis in several infectious diseases (HIV, HSV). Given that cholesterol is an important nutrient for malaria parasites, we examined whether APOE Ɛ4 was a risk factor for Plasmodium infection, in terms of prevalence or parasite density. A cross sectional survey was performed in 508 children aged 1 to 12 years in Gabon during the wet season. Children were screened for Plasmodium spp. infection, APOE and hemoglobin S (HbS) polymorphisms. Median parasite densities were significantly higher in APOE Ɛ4 children for Plasmodium spp. densities compared to non-APOE Ɛ4 children. When stratified for HbS polymorphisms, median Plasmodium spp. densities were significantly higher in HbAA children if they had an APOE Ɛ4 allele compared to those without an APOE Ɛ4 allele. When considering non-APOE Ɛ4 children, there was no quantitative reduction of Plasmodium spp. parasite densities for HbAS compared to HbAA phenotypes. No influence of APOE Ɛ4 on successful Plasmodium liver cell invasion was detected by multiplicity of infection. These results show that the APOE Ɛ4 allele is associated with higher median malaria parasite densities in children likely due to the importance of cholesterol availability to parasite growth and replication. Results suggest an epistatic interaction between APOE and HbS genes such that sickle cell trait only had an effect on parasite density in APOE Ɛ4 children. This suggests a linked pathway of regulation of parasite density involving expression of these genes. These findings have significance for understanding host determinants of regulation of malaria parasite density, the design of clinical trials as well as studies of co-infection with Plasmodium and other pathogens.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 110, 8123–8128 (2013). See Document


Plasmodium vivax is considered to be absent from Central and West Africa because of the protective effect of Duffy negativity. However, there are reports of persons returning from these areas infected with this parasite and observations suggesting the existence of transmission. Among the possible explanations for this apparent paradox, the existence of a zoonotic reservoir has been proposed. May great apes be this reservoir? We analyze the mitochondrial and nuclear genetic diversity of P. vivax parasites isolated from great apes in Africa and compare it to parasites isolated from travelers returning from these regions of Africa, as well as to human isolates distributed all over the world. We show that the P. vivax sequences from parasites of great apes form a clade genetically distinct from the parasites circulating in humans. We show that this clade’s parasites can be infectious to humans by describing the case of a traveler returning from the Central African Republic infected with one of them. The relationship between this P. vivax clade in great apes and the human isolates is discussed.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 5, e1448 (2011). See Document


Leishmania species of the subgenus Leishmania and especially L. donovani are responsible for a large proportion of visceral leishmaniasis cases. The debate on the mode of reproduction and population structure of Leishmania parasites remains opened. It has been suggested that Leishmania parasites could alternate different modes of reproduction, more particularly clonality and frequent recombinations either between related individuals (endogamy) or between unrelated individuals (outcrossing) within strongly isolated subpopulations. To determine whether this assumption is generalized to other species, a population genetics analysis within Leishmania donovani complex strains was conducted within a single village. The results suggest that a mixed-mating reproduction system exists, an important heterogeneity of subsamples and the coexistence of several genetic entities in Sudanese L. donovani. Indeed, results showed significant genetic differentiation between the three taxa (L. donovaniL. infantum and L. archibaldi) and between the human or canine strains of such taxa, suggesting that there may be different imbricated transmission cycles involving either dogs or humans. Results also are in agreement with an almost strict specificity of L. donovani stricto sensu to human hosts. This empirical study demonstrates the complexity of population structure in the genus Leishmania and the need to pursue such kind of analyses at the smallest possible spatio-temporal and ecological scales.

Mol. Ecol. 20, 3116–3127 (2011). See Document


Leishmania species of the subgenus Viannia and especially Leishmania Viannia guyanensis are responsible for a large proportion of New World leishmaniasis cases. Since a recent publication on Leishmania Viannia braziliensis, the debate on the mode of reproduction of Leishmania parasites has been reopened. A predominant endogamic reproductive mode (mating with relatives), together with strong Wahlund effects (sampling of strains from heterogeneous subpopulations), was indeed evidenced. To determine whether this hypothesis can be generalized to other Leishmania Viannia species, we performed a population genetic study on 153 human strains of L. (V.) guyanensis from French Guiana based on 12 microsatellite loci. The results revealed important homozygosity and very modest linkage disequilibrium, which is in agreement with a high level of sexual recombination and substantial endogamy. These results also revealed a significant isolation by distance with relatively small neighbourhoods and hence substantial viscosity of Leishmania populations in French Guiana. These results are of epidemiological relevance and suggest a major role for natural hosts and/or vectors in parasite strain diffusion across the country as compared to human hosts.

Vet. Parasitol. 181, 325–328 (2011). See Document


We report the first case of natural infection of a domestic female cat (Felis catus) by Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis in French Guiana. The infected animal had a cutaneous ulcer on the nose and nodules of different sizes in the ears. The diagnosis was confirmed by molecular analysis of cutaneous samples that detected the presence of Leishmania parasites and allowed identifying the Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis species. The discovery of a cat infected by L. (V.) braziliensis suggests the possibility that cats could be potential secondary reservoirs of Leishmania parasites in French Guiana. Thus, it would be important to investigate the possible epidemiological role of domestic cats in domestic foci of Leishmania in this region.

PLoS Pathog. 6, e1001004 (2010). See Document


Leishmaniases remain a major public health problem today (350 million people at risk, 12 million infected, and 2 million new infections per year). Despite the considerable progress in cellular and molecular biology and in evolutionary genetics since 1990, the debate on the population structure and reproductive mode of Leishmania is far from being settled and therefore deserves further investigation. Two major hypotheses coexist: clonality versus sexuality. However, because of the lack of clear evidence (experimental or biological confirmation) of sexuality in Leishmania parasites, until today it has been suggested and even accepted that Leishmania species were mainly clonal with infrequent genetic recombination (see [1] for review). Two recent publications, one on Leishmania major (an in vitro experimental study) and one on Leishmania braziliensis (a population genetics analysis), once again have challenged the hypothesis of clonal reproduction. Indeed, the first study experimentally evidenced genetic recombination and proposed that Leishmania parasites are capable of having a sexual cycle consistent with meiotic processes inside the insect vector. The second investigation, based on population genetics studies, showed strong homozygosities, an observation that is incompatible with a predominantly clonal mode of reproduction at an ecological time scale (∼20–500 generations). These studies highlight the need to advance the knowledge of Leishmania biology. In this paper, we first review the reasons stimulating the continued debate and then detail the next essential steps to be taken to clarify the Leishmania reproduction model. Finally, we widen the discussion to other Trypanosomatidae and show that the progress in Leishmania biology can improve our knowledge of the evolutionary genetics of American and African trypanosomes.

Parasitology 137, 1879–1884 (2010). See Document


We used 12 microsatellite markers developed for Leishmania braziliensis to genotype 28 strains of the main species of the Leishmania guyanensis complex (i.e. L. guyanensis and L. panamensis) collected in Ecuador and Peru. The important heterozygote deficits observed in these populations are similar with the previous data obtained in L. braziliensis and raise again the debate on the reproductive mode of these protozoan parasites. The data showed genetic polymorphism and geographical differentiation giving information on population structure of the L. guyanensis complex. Regarding the two species, this study enhances again the debate on the taxonomic status of the different isolates belonging to L. guyanensis s.l. since the results showed substantial heterogeneity within this species complex. In conclusion, this study increases the number of available microsatellite loci for L. guyanensis species complex and raises fundamental biological questions. It confirms that microsatellite markers constitute good tools for population genetic studies on parasites of this complex.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 106, 10224–10229 (2009). See Document


Leishmania species of the subgenus Viannia and especially Leishmania braziliensis are responsible for a large proportion of New World leishmaniasis cases. The reproductive mode of Leishmania species has often been assumed to be predominantly clonal, but remains unsettled. We have investigated the genetic polymorphism at 12 microsatellite loci on 124 human strains of Leishmania braziliensis from 2 countries, Peru and Bolivia. There is substantial genetic diversity, with an average of 12.4 ± 4.4 alleles per locus. There is linkage disequilibrium at a genome-wide scale, as well as a substantial heterozygote deficit (more than 50% the expected value from Hardy−Weinberg equilibrium), which indicates high levels of inbreeding. These observations are inconsistent with a strictly clonal model of reproduction, which implies excess heterozygosity. Moreover, there is large genetic heterogeneity between populations within countries (Wahlund effect), which evinces a strong population structure at a microgeographic scale. Our findings are compatible with the existence of population foci at a microgeographic scale, where clonality alternates with sexuality of an endogamic nature, with possible occasional recombination events between individuals of different genotypes. These findings provide key clues on the ecology and transmission patterns of Leishmania parasites.

Mol Ecol Resour 8, 351–353 (2008). See Document


Twelve microsatellite loci of Leishmania braziliensis were examined, nine of which were developed in this work. Fifty-six Leishmania braziliensis were genotyped with these microsatellite loci. The 12 loci studied were polymorphic with the number of alleles ranging from five to 19, with a mean of 9.7 ± 4.1 and the observed heterozygosity averaging 0.425 ± 0.202. The important heterozygote deficits we observed (FIS = 0.41, value = 0.004) appear incompatible with the heterozygote excess expected in clonal diploids. This last result could revive the clonality/sexuality debate regarding Leishmania. This work validates the potential use of these microsatellites for population genetics analysis.