• P. falciparum;
  • polymorphism;
  • PCR;
  • genotype

This paper summarizes the first conclusions arising from an analysis of parasite diversity in blood samples collected during longitudinal surveys conducted in Senegal. Parasite typing was carried out using a PCR-based molecular analysis of allelic polymorphism. The parasite populations circulating in the village of Dielmo during periods of intense transmission (when the inoculation rate was 0.5–1 infective bite/night) are characterized by a considerable allelic diversity of the MSP-1, MSP-2 and TRAP loci. A large proportion of blood samples contained several MSP-1 or MSP-2 alleles. In asymptomatic carriers, the complexity of the infections (number of alleles and genetic diversity of these alleles) was age-dependent. In children, the trend was for a reduced complexity during clinical episodes. Molecular typing showed that successive clinical episodes experienced by children were caused by genetically distinct parasites. Longitudinal analysis of asymptomatic carriers indicated that in the absence of transmission, the same parasite types were carried for long periods, while rapidly changing profiles were observed during intense transmission season. The consequences of these findings on our understanding of acquired anti-parasite immunity in humans living in endemic are discussed.