CDC via AP

Some populations in East Africa have developed partial immunity to the deadliest form of malaria, a new study finds. In some cases, genetic changes reduced the risk of malaria by up to 40 percent.

What it means: The gene variant in certain people of East African descent helps keep a parasite that causes malaria from entering the bloodstream. The new findings could accelerate research into ways to combat malaria, as they're a next step toward discovering protective aspects from gene mutations or variants.

How they did it: Researchers sequenced the genomes of 765 people from 10 ethnic groups in Gambia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Tanzania and analyzed thousands of genomes from an existing database of people from across the continent. They then compared both against genomes from severe cases of malaria and found a variation called DUP4 that lowered the risk of malaria was present almost exclusively in people of East Africa descent. They found no DUP4, for instance, in the 4,791 Gambian individuals in the study.

Next steps: DUP4 is not widespread in Africa. Scientists need to determine why these East African sub-populations developed the gene variant. Is it a recent development? Did it emerge to combat a particular strain of malaria only found in East Africa? Because malaria parasites invade through membranes and replicate in red blood cells, scientists also want to study how DUP4 keeps the parasites out.

Be smart: The parasite this gene variant protects against is called Plasmodium falciparum. It's transmitted to humans by female Anopheles mosquitoes. Malaria from this combination of mosquito and parasite is extremely deadly; it has the highest complication rates and mortality and is one of the major causes of childhood mortality from malaria in Africa.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 19,734,428— Total deaths: 728,612 — Total recoveries — 12,001,537Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 7 p.m. ET: 5,036,387 — Total deaths: 162,851 — Total recoveries: 1,656,864 — Total tests: 61,792,571Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says states don't have the funds to comply with Trump's executive order on unemployment — Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department.
  4. Public health: Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths by end of 2020 — Fauci says chances are "not great" that COVID-19 vaccine will be 98% effective.
  5. Schools: Nine test positive at Georgia school where photo showing packed hallway went viral — How back-to-school is playing out in the South as coronavirus rages on.
2 hours ago - World

Protests erupt in Belarus after "Europe's last dictator" claims election victory

A man lies on the ground in front of riot police in Minsk. Photo: Sergei Gapon/AFP via Getty Images

Demonstrations broke out across Belarus on Sunday after a government exit poll predicted that President Aleksander Lukashenko, an authoritarian who has ruled the Eastern European country since 1994, had swept to overwhelming victory over a pro-democracy opposition candidate.

Why it matters: It's a precarious moment for the former Soviet republic, where decades of repression and a complete disregard for the coronavirus pandemic now threaten to topple "Europe's last dictator."

Scoop: Inside Trump's debate prep

Trump and Christie. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Two weekends ago, President Trump met with a group of his closest aides in the conference room of his Bedminster golf club to discuss a subject that has been weighing heavily on his mind: the three scheduled debates with Joe Biden.

Behind the scenes: In the room with Trump were his son-in-law Jared Kushner, campaign manager Bill Stepien, senior adviser Jason Miller, and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who role-played Hillary Clinton in Trump's 2016 debate prep sessions.