Sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine (SP) is still used for malaria control in sub-Saharan Africa; however, widespread resistance is a major concern. This study aimed to determine the dispersal and origin of sulfadoxine resistance lineages in the Democratic Republic of the Congo compared with East African Plasmodium falciparum dihydropteroate synthetase (Pfdhps) haplotypes. The analysis involved 264 isolates collected from patients with uncomplicated malaria from Tanzania, Uganda and DR Congo. Isolates were genotyped for Pfdhps mutations at codons 436, 437, 540, 581 and 613. Three microsatellite loci (0.8, 4.3 and 7.7 kb) flanking the Pfdhps gene were assayed. Evolutionary analysis revealed a shared origin of Pfdhps haplotypes in East Africa, with a distinct population clustering in DR Congo. Furthermore, in Tanzania there was an independent distinct origin of Pfdhps SGEGA resistant haplotype. In Uganda and Tanzania, gene flow patterns contribute to the dispersal and shared origin of parasites carrying double- and triple-mutant Pfdhps haplotypes associated with poor outcomes of intermittent preventive treatment during pregnancy using SP (IPTp-SP). However, the origins of the Pfdhps haplotypes in DR Congo and Eastern Africa sites are different. The genetic structure demonstrated a divergent and distinct population cluster predominated by single-mutant Pfdhps haplotypes at the DR Congo site. This reflects the limited dispersal of double- and triple-mutant Pfdhps haplotypes in DR Congo. This study highlights the current genetic structure and dispersal of high-grade Pfdhps resistant haplotypes, which is important to guide implementation of SP in malaria chemoprevention strategies in the region.
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