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Severe malaria risk in the genes: study

Severe malaria risk in the genes: study
Photo: Severe malaria risk in the genes: study
A large international study has identified five genes that play a role in whether people develop severe malaria or not.

Five genes that play a role in either protecting or making people more susceptible to severe malaria could be used to identify new treatments or vaccines.

The genes were identified in the largest study of its kind to explore the human genetics of malaria, taking in data from 11,890 cases of severe malaria across 12 locations in Africa, Asia and Papua New Guinea where access to health resources can be difficult.

Researchers analysed 27 malaria resistance genes, concluding that five of them significantly determined human susceptibility to severe malaria.

Sarah Dunstan of the University of Melbourne's Nossal Institute of Global Health, who led the Vietnamese part of the study, said the results showed the role of common human genetic disorders in severe malaria were more complex than previously thought.

"Our findings revealed that deficiency in G6PD, which causes a genetic blood disorder, can both reduce risk of cerebral malaria and increase risk of severe malarial anaemia, both of which are fatal complications of malaria," Dr Dunstan said.

She said the findings would contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms and processes at work when progressing to severe malaria disease.

According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 627,000 people died from the mosquito-borne illness in 2013, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa.

The findings of the study are to be published in medical journal Nature Genetics on Monday.

Copyright AAP 20014.


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