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Researchers Reveal About the Mechanism of Genetic Blood Variant Dantu in Protecting Humans against Malaria

Jan, 2021

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According to a collaborative study by the researchers of University of Cambridge, Wellcome Sanger Institute, and the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme have unveiled the mechanism about Dantu genetic blood variant that how it protects human against malaria, indicating that it might be helpful for developing novel drugs in the near future to prevent deadly malaria. The researchers have reported to found that red blood cells in people with the rare Dantu blood group exhibit higher surface tension, which averts them from being infected by lethal Plasmodium falciparum (malaria parasite).

It is evident from various sources that Malaria is a major global health burden resulting around 435,000 deaths each year. Malaria affects 61% children under five years of age. Moreover, P. falciparum is considered as the deadliest form of malaria and its prevalence is high in Africa.

In this study, researchers collected red blood cell samples from 42 healthy children in Kilifi, Kenya, with one, two or zero copies of the Dantu gene. Later, researchers utilized time-lapse video microscopy to observe the capability of parasites to invade the red blood cells in the lab, and also focused on the specific step at which invasion was lessened.

The analysis the Dantu variant red blood cell samples revealed that these red blood cells created cells with a higher surface tension and at a certain tension, malaria parasites failed to enter the cell that inhibited their lifecycle and affected their ability to proliferate in the blood.

Dr. Silvia Kariuki, of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kenya, stated, “Malaria parasites utilise a specific 'lock-and-key' mechanism to infiltrate human red blood cells. When we set out to explain how the Dantu variant protects against these parasites, we expected to find subtle changes in the way this molecular mechanism works, but the answer turned out to be much more fundamental. The Dantu variant actually slightly increases the tension of the red blood cell surface. It's like the parasite still has the key to the lock, but the door is too heavy for it to open.”

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