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      Different response to Plasmodium falciparum malaria in west African sympatric ethnic groups.

      Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

      Adolescent, Adult, Age Factors, Animals, Anopheles, parasitology, Antibodies, Protozoan, blood, Burkina Faso, epidemiology, Child, Child, Preschool, Ethnic Groups, Geography, Humans, Incidence, Infant, Malaria, Falciparum, genetics, physiopathology, Middle Aged, Morbidity, Plasmodium falciparum, immunology, Population Dynamics, Seasons

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          The comparison of malaria indicators among populations that have different genetic backgrounds and are uniformly exposed to the same parasite strains is one approach to the study of human heterogeneties in the response to the infection. We report the results of comparative surveys on three sympatric West African ethnic groups, Fulani, Mossi, and Rimaibé, living in the same conditions of hyperendemic transmission in a Sudan savanna area northeast of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The Mossi and Rimaibé are Sudanese negroid populations with a long tradition of sedentary farming, while the Fulani are nomadic pastoralists, partly settled and characterized by non-negroid features of possible caucasoid origin. Parasitological, clinical, and immunological investigations showed consistent interethnic differences in Plasmodium falciparum infection rates, malaria morbidity, and prevalence and levels of antibodies to various P. falciparum antigens. The data point to a remarkably similar response to malaria in the Mossi and Rimaibé, while the Fulani are clearly less parasitized, less affected by the disease, and more responsive to all antigens tested. No difference in the use of malaria protective measures was demonstrated that could account for these findings, and sociocultural or environmental factors do not seem to be involved. Known genetic factors of resistance to malaria did not show higher frequencies in the Fulani. The differences in the immune response were not explained by the entomological observations, which indicated substantially uniform exposure to infective bites. The available data support the existence of unknown genetic factors, possibly related to humoral immune responses, determining interethnic differences in the susceptibility to malaria.

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