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Malaria resistance

Runsewe-Abiodun T Iyabo


Malaria has remained the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in children below the age of five years in Sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is endemic. Pregnant women and non-immune immigrants are among the vulnerable groups for this disease. It continues to be the leading cause of out-patient attendance in the region. The disease often results in loss of man-hours, school absenteeism etc. Its effect however, goes beyond the social life of the stricken individuals. The economy of the nation is also threatened. However, while some children readily die from the disease, others living in the same environment suffer minimally or no episode of malaria within the year. This article shall attempt to review what determines the number of episodes, and severity of disease in an apparently similar group of people. Some individuals with certain characteristic traits are protected form developing severe forms of the disease. Some of these traits are innate while others are acquired or even stimulated. The innate traits result from genetic mutations. They include sickle-cell trait, duffy –ve, α- thalassemia, Hb C. Others are acquired following prolonged periods of exposure. The period of exposure allows the individual to develop antibodies against the different antigens on the surface of the parasite. Smallpox vaccine has been found to offer protection against this deadly disease. Age and puberty have been found to contribute to malaria resistance. It is expected that knowledge of natural resistance to malaria may aid in developing Vaccines against this deadly disease.

Keywords: malaria resistance, puberty, malaria economy, malaria vaccine

Nigerian Medical Practitioner Vol. 49(5) 2006: 133-142