Prevalence of simian malaria parasites in macaques of Singapore

Li, Meizhi Irene and Mailepessov, Diyar and Vythilingam, Indra and Lee, Vernon and Lam, Patrick and Ng, Lee Ching and Tan, Cheong Huat (2021) Prevalence of simian malaria parasites in macaques of Singapore. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 15 (1). ISSN 1935-2735, DOI

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Author summary Malaria is one of the most important vector-borne diseases in the world. In Southeast Asia, the incidence of human malaria infections caused by simian malaria parasites that originate from macaques has been increasing in the last decade, possibly due to closer proximity between the macaque and human population as a result of deforestation. In Singapore, urbanization and change in land use have resulted in closer proximity and interactions between macaques and the general human population. In order to assess the risk of potential simian malaria zoonosis, 1039 macaques' blood samples were screened in this study for simian malaria parasites. Our results showed that simian malaria parasites were only detected in macaques living deep in the forest within the military protected zone, while macaques living close to human habitations are malaria-free. This study illustrated a low risk of zoonotic transmission of simian malaria parasites to the general population in Singapore. Plasmodium knowlesi is a simian malaria parasite currently recognized as the fifth causative agent of human malaria. Recently, naturally acquired P. cynomolgi infection in humans was also detected in Southeast Asia. The main reservoir of both parasites is the long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, which are indigenous in this region. Due to increased urbanization and changes in land use, there has been greater proximity and interaction between the long-tailed macaques and the general population in Singapore. As such, this study aims to determine the prevalence of simian malaria parasites in local macaques to assess the risk of zoonosis to the general human population. Screening for the presence of malaria parasites was conducted on blood samples from 660 peridomestic macaques collected between Jan 2008 and Mar 2017, and 379 wild macaques collected between Mar 2009 and Mar 2017, using a Pan-Plasmodium-genus specific PCR. Positive samples were then screened using a simian Plasmodium species-specific nested PCR assay to identify the species of parasites (P. knowlesi, P. coatneyi, P. fieldi, P. cynomolgi, and P. inui) present. All the peridomestic macaques sampled were tested negative for malaria, while 80.5% of the 379 wild macaques were infected. All five simian Plasmodium species were detected; P. cynomolgi being the most prevalent (71.5%), followed by P. knowlesi (47.5%), P. inui (42.0%), P. fieldi (32.5%), and P. coatneyi (28.5%). Co-infection with multiple species of Plasmodium parasites was also observed. The study revealed that Singapore's wild long-tailed macaques are natural hosts of the five simian malaria parasite species, while no malaria was detected in all peridomestic macaques tested. Therefore, the risk of simian malaria transmission to the general human population is concluded to be low. However, this can be better demonstrated with the incrimination of the vectors of simian malaria parasites in Singapore.

Item Type: Article
Funders: National Environment Agency (NEA), Singapore
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RB Pathology
Divisions: Faculty of Medicine > Pathology Department
Depositing User: Ms Zaharah Ramly
Date Deposited: 21 Apr 2022 01:38
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2022 01:38

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