Malaria Affected by Sickle Cell

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Sickle cell anemia, a debilitating genetic disorder, is also a severe illness in hemolytic anemias. In terms of epidemiology, sickle cell disease is inextricably linked to the spread of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Initial research by Antony Clifford Allison supported the theory of a connection between sickle cell disease and malaria. The scientist would later make a seminal observation, indicating that heterozygous sickle cell people had genetic resistance to malaria. As a result, the following sections of this paper will focus on the connection between sickle cell anemia and the prevalence of Malaria. At the outset, it was discovered that several sickle cell cases were witnessed where Malaria was endemic. On the contrary, the absence of Malaria within a geographic location tended to influence selection against the gene responsible for sickle cell. Additionally, it also emerged that in localities with a high prevalence of Malaria, an individual ending up with normal genes and those with the sickle cell genes were both highly vulnerable. Consequently, the individual presenting with homozygous genes for the sickle cell would develop the disease while the one presenting with normal genes would become highly vulnerable to Malaria. The sickle cell heterozygous group subsequently developed internal resistance to Malaria. As such, the selection balance tended to favor the heterozygous group. The evolution tradeoff, therefore, is best exemplified by the apparent need to protect people from Malaria which implies that more sickle cell disease could be experienced in the population.

Evolution through Natural Selection

Interestingly, it is worth noting that the sickle cell mutation was not the best solution to resist Malaria but the only alternative most available. Through evolution, a simple typo along the A-T gene sequence that encodes hemoglobin occurred giving those who live in malaria zones an edge. Since the gene mutation is beneficial, it is retained and passed on to the subsequent generations. The mutation witnessed in the sickle cell gene inhibited the ability of the malaria parasite to reproduce. Ultimately, the significance of evolution by natural selection would imply that mutations can create a genetic disorder and equally protect against a disease such as Malaria.

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August 18, 2021

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