Case Studies

Microbes: Malaria and the human genome

Each year, the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum kills over a million African children and causes debilitating illness in over half a billion people worldwide. Malaria is the strongest known selective force in the recent history of the human genome. Many types of genetic variation have evolved in humans due to selection by the malarial parasite, causing variation in red blood cell regulation, structure and antigen expression.

In this Case Study, students investigate the origin and action of mutations that are thought to have arisen in human populations in response to selection pressure from malaria.

Case study written by: Steve Cross, Bronwyn Terrill and their colleagues at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton.