Letter | Published:

Cellular mechanism for the protective effect of haemoglobin S against P. falciparum malaria

Naturevolume 274pages701703 (1978) | Download Citation



RELATIVE protection against Plasmodium falciparum malaria afforded to heterozygous carriers of the sickle-cell gene is now the accepted mechanism for the high frequency of the gene in areas where malaria is (or was) common1–3. However, the cellular mechanisms whereby Hb S protects the red cell against the malarial parasite are still not fully understood. We have compared the rates of invasion and growth of P. falciparum in normal red cells and in those of individuals with the sickling disorders, in both aerobic conditions and conditions of reduced oxygen tension. As a result of these studies, we suggest a possible mechanism for the protection of sickle-cell heterozygotes against P. falciparum malaria.

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  1. Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, The Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford, UK

    • G. PASVOL
    •  & D. J. WEATHERALL
  2. National Institute of Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, NW7, UK

    • R. J. M. WILSON


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