A study co-authored by the African Academy of Sciences’ Senior Advisor Kevin Marsh has identified genes in children that increase resistance to severe malaria by 40 per cent.
Marsh was part of the MalariaGen, an international network of scientists and clinicians in Africa, Asia and other malaria-endemic regions of the world that is largely funded by the Wellcome Trust, which published the study in the journal Nature on 30 September 2015.
After analysing the DNA of children from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Gambia and Tanzania with and without severe malaria, they found that the genes responsible for malaria resistance are located near a cluster of genes which code for proteins called glycophorins. Glycophorins are involved in the malaria parasite's invasion of red blood cells.
A particularly strongly-protective variant of the gene was most commonly found among children in Kenya.