Multiple independent introductions of Plasmodium falciparum in South America

Erhan Yalcindag, Eric Elguero, Céline Arnathau, Patrick Durand, Jean Akiana, Timothy J. Anderson, Agnes Aubouy, François Balloux, Patrick Besnard, Hervé Bogreau, Pierre Carnevale, Umberto D'Alessandro, Didier Fontenille, Dionicia Gamboa, Thibaut Jombart, Jacques Le Mire, Eric Leroy, Amanda Maestre, Mayfong Mayxay, Didier MénardLise Musset, Paul N. Newton, Dieudonné Nkoghé, Oscar Noya, Benjamin Ollomo, Christophe Rogier, Vincent Veron, Albina Wide, Sedigheh Zakeri, Bernard Carme, Eric Legrand, Christine Chevillon, Francisco J. Ayala, François Renaud, Franck Prugnolle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

75 Scopus citations


The origin of Plasmodium falciparum in South America is controversial. Some studies suggest a recent introduction during the European colonizations and the transatlantic slave trade. Other evidence - archeological and genetic - suggests a much older origin. We collected and analyzed P. falciparum isolates from different regions of the world, encompassing the distribution range of the parasite, including populations from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and South America. Analyses of microsatellite and SNP polymorphisms show that the populations of P. falciparum in South America are subdivided in two main genetic clusters (northern and southern). Phylogenetic analyses, as well as Approximate Bayesian Computation methods suggest independent introductions of the two clusters from African sources. Our estimates of divergence time between the South American populations and their likely sources favor a likely introduction from Africa during the transatlantic slave trade.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)511-516
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 10 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Genetic diversity
  • Human migrations
  • Malaria origin
  • New World

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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