Resolving the cause of recurrent P. vivax malaria probabilistically.

06 Dec 2019
Taylor AR, Watson JA, Chu CS, Puaprasert K, Duanguppama J, Day NPJ, Nosten F, Neafsey DE, Buckee CO, Imwong M, White NJ


Relapses arising from dormant liver-stage Plasmodium vivax parasites (hypnozoites) are a major cause of vivax malaria. However, in endemic areas, a recurrent blood-stage infection following treatment can be hypnozoite-derived (relapse), a blood-stage treatment failure (recrudescence), or a newly acquired infection (reinfection). Each of these requires a different prevention strategy, but it was not previously possible to distinguish between them reliably. We show that individual vivax malaria recurrences can be characterised probabilistically by combined modelling of time-to-event and genetic data within a framework incorporating identity-by-descent. Analysis of pooled patient data on 1441 recurrent P. vivax infections in 1299 patients on the Thailand-Myanmar border observed over 1000 patient follow-up years shows that, without primaquine radical curative treatment, 3 in 4 patients relapse. In contrast, after supervised high-dose primaquine only 1 in 40 relapse. In this region of frequent relapsing P. vivax, failure rates after supervised high-dose primaquine are significantly lower (∼3%) than estimated previously.