Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency and malaria
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Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is a cytoplasmic enzyme that is essential for a cell’s capacity to withstand oxidant stress. G6PD deficiency is the commonest enzymopathy of humans, affecting over 400 million persons worldwide. The geographical correlation of its distribution with the historical endemicity of malaria suggests that 66PD deficiency has risen in frequency through natural selection by malaria. This is supported by data from in vitro studies that demonstrate impaired growth of P. falciparum parasites in G6PD-deficient erythrocytes. Attempts to confirm that G6PD deficiency is protective in field studies of malaria have yielded conflicting results, but recent results from large case control studies conducted in East and West Africa provide strong evidence that the most common African G6PD deficiency variant, G6PD A–, is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of severe malaria for both G6PD female heterozygotes and male hemizygotes. The effect of female homozygotes on severe malaria remains unclear but can probably be assumed to be similar to that of comparably deficient male hemizygotes.
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