Threat of malaria left its mark on the immune system in people with African ancestry
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IMAGE: Colorized scanning electron micrograph of red blood cell infected with malaria parasites, which are colorized in blue. The infected cell is in the center of the image area. To the… view more 

Credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, Flickr, Public Domain Mark 1.0

In a new study published June 7th, 2018 in PLOS Genetics, Christine Ambrosone of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and colleagues identified a genetic difference between people with African and European ancestry that affects how the immune system triggers inflammation. They suspect these differences are rooted in how the immune system evolved and the evolutionary pressure exerted by malaria on ancestors who lived in Africa.

For thousands of years, the human immune system evolved to fight off constant assaults from a variety of infections, tailoring its response to defend against local threats. Thanks to modern hygiene, the immune system now faces far fewer attacks, but ancestral differences still remain, as demonstrated by differing disease rates between populations. To gain a better understanding of how different populations’ immune systems respond to current lifestyles, researchers combined genetic, molecular and epidemiological data from in 914 people with African ancestry and 855 people with European ancestry

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