Investigating the interplay between sickle cell anemia and malaria at the epidemiological and molecular levels
Malaria is one of the world’s most common infectious diseases. Each year, there are approximately 241 million cases, leading to 627,000 deaths, making it one of the most devastating global public health problems. The lack of an effective vaccine and the emergence of resistance to currently used drugs, combined with the small number of suitable new drugs against the malaria parasite, demonstrate the urgent need for the development and implementation of novel intervention strategies in the form of drugs, vector control measures and an effective vaccine. Indeed, it is expected that if the trend in malaria prevalence stays on its current upwards course, the death rate could double in the next twenty years.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder that can cause red blood cells to take on the shape of a sickle or crescent. It typically manifests itself in early childhood and is characterized by severe, often lethal anemia, repeated infections, and periodic pain episodes. There is a hypothesis that individuals affected by sickle cell disease (those that carry the HbS gene mutation in their red blood cells) have a certain protection against malaria, but it is not understood why.
This project will try to determine if and how people suffering from sickle cell disease are protected from severe malaria in the southeast region of Sudan. It also seeks to identify the molecular mechanisms that might explain this protection. It was selected for funding during the first research competition of the Joint Canada-Israel Health Research Program – Phase II, a partnership between IDRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Israel Science Foundation and the Azrieli Foundation.