First genetic risk factors for cerebral malaria in Angolan kids identified

Thursday, June 17, 2010

WASHINGTON - A team of researchers has identified the first genetic risk factors for the development of cerebral malaria in Angolan children, a severe manifestation of malaria infection.

It is known that genetic factors influence how humans react to infection by the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, leading some to develop uncomplicated disease, and others to develop severe manifestations, such as cerebral malaria (CM), an acute and life threatening complication of clinical malaria. However, not much was known about the genetic factors that increase susceptibility to specific malaria complications.

The team led by Instituto Gulbenkian de Cijncia, IGC, scientist Carlos Penha-Gongalves, compared a host of genetic variations between CM patients and infected patients that did not manifest a CM outcome. They identified variants in two genes, TGFB2 and HMOX that appear to contribute to the development of CM in Angolan children. Carriers of these variants are thus at a greater risk of developing cerebral malaria, if infected with the Plasmodium.

Carlos Penha Gongalves said, “This study provides important insights for future association and functional studies, in other populations, to determine the exact role of these genes in the development of cerebral malaria. In the future, this battery of genetic variants may be used to identify patients who are more susceptible to this severe outcome of malaria infection early, and prevent its development”.

The study was carried out at a paediatrics hospital in Luanda, an Angolan province where malaria is the first cause of morbidity and mortality.

These findings are published in the journal Plos One. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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