Malaria linked with genetic changes associated with ageing: Study – ET HealthWorld

New Delhi: Malaria associated with infection genetic variationAccording to a new study, it is believed to be caused by aging. The researchers extracted genetic material from blood samples from more than 1,800 adults in Tanzania, Botswana, Ethiopia and Cameroon, African countries where malaria is considered endemic, or persistently present.

According to the 2023 World Health Organization (WHO) malaria report published in the journal ‘The Lancet Microbe’, about 70 per cent of the global burden of the mosquito-borne disease is concentrated in 11 countries, including India and 10 African countries.

The team, including researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, US, analyzed the DNA white blood cells – important for immunity and fighting infection – and measured the length of telomeres present at the ends of chromosomes, which carry genes.

Telomeres keep the ends of chromosomes from sticking to each other or fraying. They are known to become smaller with age and can also help predict a person’s risk of being affected by aging-related diseases and death.

“We highlight the contribution of genetic and environmental factors influencing Telomere length in leukocytes (white blood cells), and we uncovered a potential role for malaria in reducing telomere length in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania, co-senior author of the study published in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

The researchers found shorter telomere length in the white blood cells of adults native to areas where malaria is highly endemic, compared to native adults from areas with less malaria endemicity.

It is known that malaria infection causes massive destruction of white blood cells. The authors said that this process, coupled with the formation of new cells to restore this loss, may be a possible mechanism through which the disease shortens telomere length.

They also found that the extent to which malaria was endemic in a region had a greater impact on telomere length than previously identified and known environmental factors affecting telomere length.

“This association between malaria and white blood cell telomere length appears to be larger than any other known exposure or behavior that has been examined in large-scale studies,” Tishkoff said.

While previous studies have suggested an association between malaria infection and telomere shortening, the researchers said it is unknown whether repeated infections throughout life have lasting effects on telomere length in people living in malaria-endemic areas. There may be an impact.

The authors also said that a longitudinal (long-term) study in children and adults native to areas of high and low malaria endemicity would provide more insightful information.

  • Published on May 4, 2024 at 06:36am IST

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