Prevention of cerebral malaria in children in Papua New Guinea by southeast Asian ovalocytosis band 3.
Allen SJ., O'Donnell A., Alexander ND., Mgone CS., Peto TE., Clegg JB., Alpers MP., Weatherall DJ.
Southeast Asian ovalocytosis (SAO) occurs at high frequency in malarious regions of the western Pacific and may afford a survival advantage against malaria. It is caused by a deletion of the erythrocyte membrane band 3 gene and the band 3 protein mediates the cytoadherence of parasitized erythrocytes in vitro. The SAO band 3 variant may prevent cerebral malaria but it exacerbates malaria anemia and may also increase acidosis, a major determinant of mortality in malaria. We undertook a case-control study of children admitted to hospital in a malarious region of Papua New Guinea. The SAO band 3, detected by the polymerase chain reaction, was present in 0 of 68 children with cerebral malaria compared with six (8.8%) of 68 matched community controls (odds ratio = 0, 95% confidence interval = 0-0.85). Median hemoglobin levels were 1.2 g/dl lower in malaria cases with SAO than in controls (P = 0.035) but acidosis was not affected. The remarkable protection that SAO band 3 affords against cerebral malaria may offer a valuable approach to a better understanding of the mechanisms of adherence of parasitized erythrocytes to vascular endothelium, and thus of the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria.