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Global Health
October 17, 2012

Protective Gene for Malaria?

JAMA. 2012;308(15):1515. doi:10.1001/jama.2012.13775

The genetic polymorphism underlying Southeast Asian ovalocytosis (SAO), a disorder in which red blood cells have a distorted, elliptical shape, may have a protective effect against malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax in children, reports a multinational group of researchers (Rosanas-Urgell A et al. PLoS Med. 2012;9[9]:e1001305).

The investigators performed genetic tests for the SAO defect in 1975 children from the Madang area of Papua New Guinea who were enrolled in 3 separate malaria studies: a clinical drug prevention trial with 1121 infants aged 3 to 21 months, a case-control study of 318 children with severe malaria aged 10 years and younger, and a treatment time-to-reinfection study of 206 children aged 5 to 14 years. In the 3 studies, the SAO genetic defect was associated with a reduction in risk of clinical P vivax episodes.

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