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© 2020, The Author(s). Despite significant progress in controlling malaria, the disease remains a global health burden. The intricate interactions the parasite Plasmodium falciparum has with its host allows it to grow and multiply in human erythrocytes. The mechanism by which P. falciparum merozoites invade human erythrocytes is complex, involving merozoite proteins as well as erythrocyte surface proteins. Members of the P. falciparum reticulocyte binding-like protein homolog (PfRh) family of proteins play a pivotal role in merozoite invasion and hence are important targets of immune responses. Domains within the PfRh2b protein have been implicated in its ability to stimulate natural protective antibodies in patients. More specifically, a 0.58 kbp deletion, at the C-terminus has been reported in high frequencies in Senegalese and Southeast Asian parasite populations, suggesting a possible role in immune evasion. We analysed 1218 P. falciparum clinical isolates, and the results show that this deletion is present in Ghanaian parasite populations (48.5% of all isolates), with Kintampo (hyper-endemic, 53.2%), followed by Accra (Hypo-endemic, 50.3%), Cape Coast (meso-endemic, 47.9%) and Sogakope (meso-endemic, 43.15%). Further analysis of parasite genomes stored in the MalariaGEN database revealed that the deletion variant was common across transmission areas globally, with an overall frequency of about 27.1%. Interestingly, some parasite isolates possessed mixed PfRh2b deletion and full-length alleles. We further showed that levels of antibodies to the domain of PfRh2 protein were similar to antibody levels of PfRh5, indicating it is less recognized by the immune system.

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Journal article


Scientific Reports

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