Scientists ID Genes That Protect African Children From Malaria
Friday, October 2, 2015
Scientists have identified specific genetic variations that protect some African children from developing severe malaria and say their discovery will boost the fight against a disease that kills about half a million children annually.
In the largest study of its kind, the researchers said identifying the variations in DNA at a specific location, or locus, on the genome helps explain why some children develop severe malaria and others don't in communities where people are constantly exposed to the mosquito-borne disease.
In some cases, they said, having a specific genetic variation almost halves a child's risk of developing a life-threatening case of the disease.
"We can now say, unequivocally, that genetic variations in this region of the human genome provide strong protection against severe malaria in real-world settings, making a difference to whether a child lives or dies," said Dominic Kwiatkowski, a professor at the Wellcome Trust's Sanger Institute and Centre for Human Genetics and one of the lead researchers on the project.
The work was conducted by MalariaGEN, an international network of scientists across Africa, Asia and other malaria-endemic regions, largely funded by the Wellcome Trust.
- Health Care