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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1987;81(5):705-9.

Hereditary ovalocytosis and reduced susceptibility to malaria in Papua New Guinea.

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Papua New Guinea Institute of Medical Research, Goroka.


Ovalocytosis, an hereditary condition in which most erythrocytes are oval in shape, is a polymorphism that occurs in up to 20% or more of the population in Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. Due to the geographical correlation of the trait with endemic malaria, the possibility of a selective advantage in resistance to malaria has been raised. In a study of 202 individuals with greater than or equal to 50% oval red cells matched by age, sex and village of residence with controls having less than or equal to 30% oval cells, ovalocytic subjects had blood films negative for Plasmodium vivax (P = 0.009), for P. falciparum (P = 0.044), and for all species of malaria parasites (P = 0.013), more often than controls. Among individuals parasitaemic at any time there were no clear differences in density of parasitaemia. However, in children 2 to 4 years old, parasite densities of both species were lower in ovalocytic subjects than in controls (0.01 less than P less than 0.025). The differential susceptibility to malaria infection suggested by this study has implications for the evaluation of interventions, including possible future vaccine field trials, in populations where high-frequency ovalocytosis is present.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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