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Southeast Asian ovalocytosis protects against P. vivax malaria

Press release from PLOS Medicine


A multinational group of authors, led by Ivo Mueller from the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute, Australia and the Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, have found a strong association between Southeast Asian ovalocytosis, an inherited disorder that affects the shape of red blood cells, and protection against malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax. The investigators genotyped 1975 children enrolled in three independent epidemiological studies conducted in the Madang area of Papua New Guinea for this common hemoglobin gene mutation, and assessed P. vivax infection and disease in the children. The authors suggest that P. vivax malaria may have contributed to shaping the unique host genetic adaptations to malaria in Asian and Oceanic populations.


Funding: This study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (AI063135, AI007024, AI064478 and 5U19AI089686), National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia (grants 513782 and 516735), the MalariaGen Genomic Epidemiology Network and the Veterans Affairs Research Service. The authors also acknowledge support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the conduct of the PNG IPTi study, from an Australian Agency for International Development grant to the PNG Institute of Medical Research and from a Victorian State Government Operational Infrastructure Support grant to the Walter+Eliza Hall Institute. P.R. and M.I. were supported by a Fogarty Foundation scholarship (2D43 TW007377), L.M. by a Basser scholarship from the Royal Australian College of Physicians and an NHMRC fellowship, L.R. by a NHMR early career fellowship and T.M.E.D by an NHMRC practitioner fellowship. No funding bodies had any role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Citation: Rosanas-Urgell A, Lin E, Manning L, Rarau P, Laman M, et al. (2012) Reduced Risk of Plasmodium vivax Malaria in Papua New Guinean Children with Southeast Asian Ovalocytosis in Two Cohorts and a Case-Control Study. PLoS Med 9(9): e1001305. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001305


Ivo Mueller
PNG Institute of Medical Research
Madang, Papua New Guinea

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