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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Genetic polymorphisms linked to susceptibility to malaria

Adel Driss1*, Jacqueline M Hibbert1, Nana O Wilson1, Shareen A Iqbal2, Thomas V Adamkiewicz3 and Jonathan K Stiles1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry and Immunology, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

2 Department of Urology, Winship Cancer institute, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

3 Department of Family Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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Malaria Journal 2011, 10:271  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-10-271

Published: 19 September 2011

Abstract

The influence of host genetics on susceptibility to Plasmodium falciparum malaria has been extensively studied over the past twenty years. It is now clear that malaria parasites have imposed strong selective forces on the human genome in endemic regions. Different genes have been identified that are associated with different malaria related phenotypes. Factors that promote severity of malaria include parasitaemia, parasite induced inflammation, anaemia and sequestration of parasitized erythrocytes in brain microvasculature.

Recent advances in human genome research technologies such as genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and fine genotyping tools have enabled the discovery of several genetic polymorphisms and biomarkers that warrant further study in host-parasite interactions. This review describes and discusses human gene polymorphisms identified thus far that have been shown to be associated with susceptibility or resistance to P. falciparum malaria. Although some polymorphisms play significant roles in susceptibility to malaria, several findings are inconclusive and contradictory and must be considered with caution. The discovery of genetic markers associated with different malaria phenotypes will help elucidate the pathophysiology of malaria and enable development of interventions or cures. Diversity in human populations as well as environmental effects can influence the clinical heterogeneity of malaria, thus warranting further investigations with a goal of developing new interventions, therapies and better management against malaria.