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Complement receptor 1 polymorphisms associated with resistance to severe malaria in Kenya

Vandana Thathy1, JoAnn M Moulds24, Bernard Guyah1, Walter Otieno1 and José A Stoute3*

Author Affiliations

1 The US Army Medical Research Unit and the Kenya Medical Research Institute, Nairobi, Kenya

2 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA, USA

3 Department of Cellular Injury, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, MD and Department of Medicine, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, Bethesda, MD, USA

4 LifeShare Blood Centers, Shreveport, LA, USA

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Malaria Journal 2005, 4:54  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-4-54

Published: 8 November 2005



It has been hypothesized that the African alleles Sl2 and McCb of the Swain-Langley (Sl) and McCoy (McC) blood group antigens of the complement receptor 1 (CR1) may confer a survival advantage in the setting of Plasmodium falciparum malaria, but this has not been demonstrated.


To test this hypothesis, children in western Kenya with severe malaria-associated anaemia or cerebral malaria were matched to symptomatic uncomplicated malaria controls by age and gender. Swain-Langley and McCoy blood group alleles were determined by restriction fragment length polymorphism and conditional logistic regression was carried out.


No significant association was found between the African alleles and severe malaria-associated anaemia. However, children with Sl2/2 genotype were less likely to have cerebral malaria (OR = 0.17, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.72, P = 0.02) than children with Sl1/1. In particular, individuals with Sl2/2 McCa/b genotype were less likely to have cerebral malaria (OR = 0.18, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.77, P = 0.02) than individuals with Sl1/1 McCa/a.


These results support the hypothesis that the Sl2 allele and, possibly, the McCb allele evolved in the context of malaria transmission and that in certain combinations probably confer a survival advantage on these populations.