Major threat to malaria control programs by Plasmodium falciparum lacking Histidine-rich protein 2, Eritrea

False-negative results for Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein (HRP) 2–based rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are increasing in Eritrea. We investigated HRP gene 2/3 (pfhrp2/pfhrp3) status in 50 infected patients at 2 hospitals. We showed that 80.8% (21/26) of patients at Ghindae Hospital and 41.7% (10/24) at Massawa Hospital were infected with pfhrp2-negative parasites and 92.3% (24/26) of patients at Ghindae Hospital and 70.8% (17/24) at Massawa Hospital were infected with pfhrp3-negative parasites. Parasite densities between pfhrp2-positive and pfhrp2-negative patients were comparable. All pfhrp2-negative samples had no detectable HRP2/3 antigen and showed negative results for HRP2-based RDTs. pfhrp2-negative parasites were genetically less diverse and formed 2 clusters with no close relationships to parasites from Peru. These parasites probably emerged independently by selection in Eritrea. High prevalence of pfhrp2-negative parasites caused a high rate of false-negative results for RDTs. Determining prevalence of pfhrp2-negative parasites is urgently needed in neighboring countries to assist case management policies.

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