Scientists have identified a human genetic variant associated with an almost 30 percent reduced risk of developing severe malaria.
Scientists revealed that a variant at the FAS locus could prevent an excessive and potentially hazardous immune response in infected children.
FAS encodes for CD95, a molecule critically involved in the programmed death of some white blood cells. This candidate gene study, including more than 6,000 child subjects, details how a single nucleotide variant of FAS predisposes its carriers to a higher number of immune cells prone to suicide.
These findings indicate that a genetic predisposition to an increased expression of CD95 may help to protect from severe malaria, possibly by rendering a type of white blood cell more susceptible to programmed cell death.
Kathrin Schuldt, co-author, said, "We believe that our study will help to unravel the mechanisms causing the fatal forms of malaria."
The study has been published in the journal PLoS Genetics.