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Malaria is a major killer of children worldwide and the strongest known force for evolutionary selection in the recent history of the human genome. The past decade has seen growing evidence of ethnic differences in susceptibility to malaria and of the diverse genetic adaptations to malaria that have arisen in different populations: epidemiological confirmation of the hypotheses that G6PD deficiency, alpha+ thalassemia, and hemoglobin C protect against malaria mortality; the application of novel haplotype-based techniques demonstrating that malaria-protective genes have been subject to recent positive selection; the first genetic linkage maps of resistance to malaria in experimental murine models; and a growing number of reported associations with resistance and susceptibility to human malaria, particularly in genes involved in immunity, inflammation, and cell adhesion. The challenge for the next decade is to build the global epidemiological infrastructure required for statistically robust genomewide association analysis, as a way of discovering novel mechanisms of protective immunity that can be used in the development of an effective malaria vaccine.

Original publication




Journal article


American journal of human genetics

Publication Date





171 - 192


Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics and University Department of Paediatrics, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Erythrocytes, Immune System, Animals, Humans, Mice, Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria, Disease Models, Animal, Genetic Predisposition to Disease, Globins, Oxidative Stress, Genome, Human, Family Health, Immunity, Innate, Biological Evolution