The malaria connection

Malaria is a disease caused by blood-borne parasites transmitted through mosquito bites [1]. It was first discovered around 2700 BC when Chinese doctors first noted its existence and described the symptoms. By the 4th century BCE, malaria was also recognized in Greece, and Hippocrates identified the symptoms. The symptoms of malaria may be difficult to detect in places where malaria is not endemic [2] since some of them mimic “flu-like” symptoms: fever, chills, sweats, headache, muscle pain, nausea, and vomiting.

Thalassemia was and is still endemic in countries around the Mediterranean Sea, the Middle East, the Arab countries, Aftica, the Indian subcontinent, Thailand, and China. In these geographic regions malaria also remains endemic and is considered a worldwide public health problem and one of the leading causes of disease and death [3]. Geographic factors appear to be one of the most important factors in determining the presence of the gene that determine thalassemia.

Molecular biologists and other researchers have found that patients who are heterozygous for thalassemia are somewhat resistance to malaria and may carry a protective trait against malaria. Hence, alpha and beta thalassemia have the highest prevalence in areas where malaria has been endemic [4]. In the United States, a country where many ethnicities and racial groups coexist together and the practice of interracial marriage occurs, the incidence of homozygosity is reduced. In the US thalassemia affects approximately 1,000 individuals [5].

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