Malaria continues to select for sickle cell trait in Central Africa.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic disorder that poses a serious health threat in tropical Africa, which the World Health Organization has declared a public health priority. Its persistence in human populations has been attributed to the resistance it provides to Plasmodium falciparum malaria in its heterozygous state, called sickle cell trait (SCT). Because of migration, SCT is becoming common outside tropical countries: It is now the most important genetic disorder in France, affecting one birth for every 2,400, and one of the most common in the United States. We assess the strength of the association between SCT and malaria, using current data for both SCT and malaria infections. A total of 3,959 blood samples from 195 villages distributed over the entire Republic of Gabon were analyzed. Hemoglobin variants were identified by using HPLCy (HPLC). Infections by three species of Plasmodium were detected by PCR followed by sequencing of a 201-bp fragment of cytochrome b. An increase of 10% in P. falciparum malaria prevalence is associated with an increase by 4.3% of SCT carriers. An increase of 10 y of age is associated with an increase by 5.5% of SCT carriers. Sex is not associated with SCT. These strong associations show that malaria remains a selective factor in current human populations, despite the progress of medicine and the actions undertaken to fight this disease. Our results provide evidence that evolution is still present in humans, although this is sometimes questioned by scientific, political, or religious personalities.
AuthorsEric Elguero, Lucrèce M Délicat-Loembet, Virginie Rougeron, Céline Arnathau, Benjamin Roche, Pierre Becquart, Jean-Paul Gonzalez, Dieudonné Nkoghe, Lucas Sica, Eric M Leroy, Patrick Durand, Francisco J Ayala, Benjamin Ollomo, François Renaud, Franck Prugnolle
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A) Vol. 112 Issue 22 Pg. 7051-4 (Jun 2 2015) ISSN: 1091-6490 [Electronic] United States
PMID25941403 (Publication Type: Journal Article, Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't)
  • Age Factors
  • Anemia, Sickle Cell (epidemiology, genetics)
  • Base Sequence
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Cohort Studies
  • Gabon (epidemiology)
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum (epidemiology, genetics)
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium (genetics)
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Selection, Genetic
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA
  • Species Specificity

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