June 23, 2017

Interesting research makes connection between Lupus and Malaria

Most diseases and illnesses are likely to impact a certain group of individuals more than others, such as fibromyalgia, which affects more women than men.  The autoimmune disease Lupus is one such disease that claims more people of Asian and African descent as sufferers when compared with Caucasians.  But, why there is a higher risk for these individuals has been largely unexplained.  That may now change, as a group of British scientists have conducted a study that appears to conclude that some individuals carry a gene that may raise their risk of lupus, while at the same time makes the individual more resistant to contracting malaria.

The researchers examined records from various patients across the world who had lupus.  They found that individuals in Hong Kong had higher instances of the gene, known as Fc gamma RIIB, than those in the control group.  What is more, the researchers found that Kenyan children who had already been exposed to malaria had lower rates of the unusual gene than those in the general population, according to the Detroit Free Press.  The fact that the gene is found in these particular areas of the world should come at no surprise, considering these are places where malaria is still a well documented health problem.  Because malaria is prevalent in these locations, the gene’s protection against developing this disease far outweighs the potential risk of having malaria.  But, why would people in other parts of the world, including the United States, have the gene if they are not regularly exposed to malaria?

According to the Detroit Free Press, the gene would continue to impact future generations through the DNA of their ancestors who likely came from regions where malaria was rampant.  SO, even if individuals do not currently live in a part of the world where malaria is a threat, they may still develop lupus because of the gene that their relatives passed down.  This particular gene is a receptor for an immune response.  As such, the gene rapidly reacts when a person is exposed to malaria, fighting off the disease.  At the same time, because of the immune system’s excitable response, the risk for developing an autoimmune disease also rises.  It is an exciting discovery, as it may lead to further investigation of both diseases, possibly being able to develop better treatment options.  Tackling two diseases at once could be a real feat for the medical community and all of those living with this variant gene.

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