Human genetic variant that may help reduce malaria risk identified

Scientists from the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNITM), Hamburg, and Kumasi University, Ghana, have identified a human genetic variant associated with an almost 30 percent reduced risk of developing severe malaria.

Scientists revealed that a variant at the FAS locus could prevent an excessive and potentially hazardous immune response in infected children.

FAS encodes for CD95, a molecule critically involved in the programmed death of some white blood cells. This candidate gene study, including more than 6,000 child subjects, details how a single nucleotide variant of FAS predisposes its carriers to a higher number of immune cells prone to suicide.

These findings indicate that a genetic predisposition to an increased expression of CD95 may help to protect from severe malaria, possibly by rendering a type of white blood cell more susceptible to programmed cell death.

Kathrin Schuldt, co-author, said, “We believe that our study will help to unravel the mechanisms causing the fatal forms of malaria.”

The study has been published in the journal PLoS Genetics.

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