Enhanced understanding of the transmission dynamics and population genetics for Plasmodium vivax
is crucial in predicting the emergence and spread of novel parasite phenotypes with major public health implications, such as new relapsing patterns, drug resistance and increased virulence. Suitable molecular markers are required for these population genetic studies. Here, we focus on two groups of molecular markers that are commonly used to analyse natural populations of P. vivax
. We use markers under selective pressure, for instance, antigen-coding polymorphic genes, and markers that are not under strong natural selection, such as most minisatellite and microsatellite loci. First, we review data obtained using genes encoding for P. vivax
antigens: circumsporozoite protein, merozoite surface proteins 1 and 3a, apical membrane antigen 1 and Duffy binding antigen. We next address neutral or nearly neutral molecular markers, especially microsatellite loci, providing a complete list of markers that have already been used in P. vivax
populations studies. We also analyse the microsatellite loci identified in the P. vivax
genome project. Finally, we discuss some practical uses for P. vivax
genotyping, for example, detecting multiple-clone infections and tracking the geographic origin of isolates.