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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

51 mins ago - Health

U.S. tops 88,000 COVID-19 cases, setting new single-day record

Expand chart
Data: COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Axios Visuals

The United States reported 88,452 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, setting a single-day record, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

The big picture: The country confirmed 1,049 additional deaths due to the virus, and there are over 46,000 people currently being hospitalized, suggesting the U.S. is experiencing a third wave heading into the winter months.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Large coronavirus outbreaks leading to high death rates — Coronavirus cases are at an all-time high ahead of Election Day.
  2. Politics: Top HHS spokesperson pitched coronavirus ad campaign as "helping the president" — Space Force's No. 2 general tests positive for coronavirus.
  3. World: Taiwan reaches a record 200 days with no local coronavirus cases.
  4. Sports: MLB to investigate Dodgers player who joined celebration after positive COVID test.
  5. 🎧Podcast: The vaccine race turns toward nationalism.

The norms around science and politics are cracking

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Crafting successful public health measures depends on the ability of top scientists to gather data and report their findings unrestricted to policymakers.

State of play: But concern has spiked among health experts and physicians over what they see as an assault on key science protections, particularly during a raging pandemic. And a move last week by President Trump, via an executive order, is triggering even more worries.