Barcelona (ACN.) - A study led by a researcher from the Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB) and Australia-based Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (WEHI) challenges the theory that only the most deadly malarial parasite affected the evolution of the human genome. The study published by the medical journal PloS Medicine concluded that the less deadly malarial parasite Plasmodium vivax also determined the evolution of the human genome in the Asia Pacific region. A team of researchers led by Ivo Mueller examined incidences of malaria in three studies involving a total of 1,975 children between 0 and 14 years old in Papua New Guinea.
Mueller explained that children who had the SAO genetic defect “had significant protection against infection, with a 46% reduction in cases of malaria amongst infants aged between 3 and 21 months of age, while in older children the reduction reached 55%”.
The results suggest that Plasmodium vivax, one of the parasites which cause malaria, is responsible for this evolved genetic trait which protects against the infectious disease. This species of malarial parasite is the most prevalent in the Asia Pacific region. Therefore the discovery challenges the theory that only the most lethal parasite Plasmodium falciparum was capable of affecting the evolution of the human genome.
According to the researcher from the Catalan CRESIB, humans and malarial parasites “have evolved side by side for thousands of years”. “Malaria has been a driving force in the evolution of the human genome, with genetic mutations that have protected humans from malaria”, said Mueller.