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New research finds potential risk for millions in Africa believed resistant to vivax malaria
Date:11/15/2013

Washington, D.C. (November 14, 2013)Provocative new research shows that the Plasmodium vivax parasite, responsible for nearly 20 million cases of malaria in 2010, may be "rapidly evolving" to overcome the natural resistance conferred by a blood type found in millions of Africans, scientists reported today at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH).

In large swaths of sub-Saharan Africa, some 95 percent or more of the population have been considered protected from vivax malaria because of something they lack on their red blood cells: the "Duffy blood group protein." The absence of this protein has been well known for decades to hinder the ability of invading vivax malaria parasites to gain entry into red blood cells.

But over the last five years malaria researchers have been surprised to see a growing number of reports from Africa and South America of infections in people who are Duffy-negative and should be resistant to vivax malaria. While not regarded to be as deadly as malaria caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, vivax malaria threatens almost as many people worldwide--some 2.49 billion are at risk. But that number could be significantly higher if the blood type is not as fully protective as previously believed.

"We discovered previously unknown genetic mechanisms in the P. vivax parasite that could give it other ways to invade red blood cells and help explain why we are seeing these vivax malaria infections in people who are Duffy-negative," said Peter Zimmerman, PhD, of Case-Western Reserve University, a co-author of two new studies to be published November 21 and December 5 in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

The studies conclude that vivax malaria appears to be "rapidly evolving" and also find that previous genome sequence analyses may have missed "important genes" that allow the parasite to make people sick.
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Contact: Preeti Singh
psingh@burnesscommunications.com
301-280-5722

Bridget DeSimone
bdesimone@burnesscommunications.com
301.280.5735

American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Source:Eurekalert


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