Researchers find two gene clues for malaria resistance

Scientists from the Institute for Tropical Medicine in Hamburg, Germany, may have found two human genetic variants that protect people from falling ill with severe malaria.

The study examined 1,325 people in Ghana who came down with severe falciparum malaria and 828 people who were healthy. By finding genetic variants that allow humans to resist severe malaria, the researchers hope to find new diagnostic tools to identify people who are at greater risk while also developing new drugs inspired by the genetic protection, AFP reports.

The researchers used genomic comparison tools to find tiny changes that could show why some people are more likely to get sick from a certain disease.

One variation was found in the ATP2B4 gene, a gene that helps pass calcium through the membrane of red blood cells. The other variant occurred near the MARVELD3 gene, which controls the protein that lines blood vessels. A variation near the MARVELD3 gene could reduce the damage that occurs when colonized malaria blood cells attach to smaller blood cells, according to AFP.

Previous research found that people with an O blood type are protected against falciparum malaria. People with sickle-cell disorder that can trigger anemia are also resistant to the parasitic disease.