SHANGHAI, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Scientists have discovered the key gene behind severe malaria, a finding that may provide new strategies for the treatment and prevention of the disease.
The discovery, published in Nature magazine on Sunday by experts from China, France, Denmark and Germany, pointed out that the antigenic variation of the Plasmodium falciparum multicopy var gene family is the key gene linked to severe malaria. It found that expression of a particular var subgroup called "upsA," is what causes human cerebral malaria, a severe malaria.
According to Professor Zhang Qingfeng, one of the researchers involved in the project, a novel chromatin-associated exoribonuclease termed "PfRNase II" controls the silencing of upsA var genes. The scientists observed an inverse relationship between transcript levels of PfRNase II and upsA-type var genes, which implied a key role of PfRNase II in severe malaria.
The finding is expected to provide clues for the development of the vaccines and medicine against severe malaria, which will help save a great number of patients, particularly children under the age of five.
Malaria is one of the oldest infectious diseases. Severe malaria claims the lives of about one million people in the world annually.