Study shows that sickle cell trait protects against severe malaria cases

Publicação: 13 de May de 2015

Scientist from a North-American institute predicts the research may help future treatments and even in vaccine production

The head of the Malaria Pathogenesis and Human Immunity Unit at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Rick Fairhurst, reported that children with sickle cell trait presented a greater reduction in the rick to acquire the disease

The head of the Malaria Pathogenesis and Human Immunity Unit at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Rick Fairhurst, reported that children with sickle cell trait presented a greater reduction in the rick to acquire the disease

North-American researchers discovered that certain traits of children’s red cells could increase or decrease the risk of malaria infection. The report, made by members of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – NIAID, from the USA, could assist the identification of future targets for new drugs and vaccines against the disease.

The study was conducted between 2008 and 2011, in Mali, African country with high incidence levels of the disease. At all, 1,543 children ranging from six months to 17 years of age were analyzed. During all the study, 4,091 malaria cases were reported.

The scientists in Mali observed that some disorders acquired from red blood cells, as abnormal shapes or the decrease of haemoglobin (blood protein that transports oxygen), are related to the risk of infection.

“Our findings confirmed that the sickle cell trait protects against severe malaria cases. Specifically, children with sickle cell trait presented a greater reduction of the risk of contracting the disease”, said the head of the Malaria Pathogenesis and Human Immunity at the NIAID, Dr. Rick Fairhurst.

He clarifies that the sickle cell trait is observed in geographic areas where malaria is endemic and, before, scientists had connected the sickle cell gene and the immunity against the disease. However, it was unknown how this characteristic affected the risk of malaria in certain age groups.

Still according to the scientist, the research showed that girls with G6PD deficiency, a genetic condition that affects red blood cells, presented a reduced risk for malaria. Those with haemoglobin C traits seem to have a greater risk.

“We expect a better understanding of the mechanics behind these protective effects to help prevent or treat malaria. Using parasites and red blood cells in our field in Mali, we are currently working to solve these protection mechanisms. Our goal is to achieve better treatments in the future, or even vaccine production”, complemented Dr. Fairhurst.

The importance regarding treatment diversification is due to the fact that, in many countries, the parasites that cause the infectious disease have developed resistance to numerous drugs.

The disease affects mostly tropical climate countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 90% of all deaths by malaria in the world happen in the African continent. Out of these, 78% of the deaths are among children aging 5 years or less.…