Hereditary Blood Disorder Found In South-East Asia, South-West Pacific Could Offer Clues For Malaria Vaccine

“A team of international scientists has found that a type of hereditary disorder in some communities in South-East Asia and the South-West Pacific protects its sufferers from malaria, a finding that could drive future vaccine design,” SciDev.Net reports. “Southeast Asian Ovalocytosis (SAO), an inherited disorder in which red blood cells are oval, instead of round, could be a unique human adaptation to resist malaria, according to a paper published in PLoS Medicine this month,” the news service writes.

“The mechanism by which SAO protects against malaria is unknown,” but “the oval shape of the blood cells could make it harder for the malaria parasite to attach and enter the red blood cells of its host,” according to SciDev.Net. “The lead researcher, Ivo Mueller from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia, and his team hope to find out which protein the parasite uses to bind to SAO cells,” the news service notes, adding, “If this protein is found, it could be used to develop a malaria vaccine, a goal that has long eluded researchers” (Rochmyaningsih, 9/17).