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Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 22:29 GMT 23:29 UK
'Mutant' malaria gene discovery

Scientists studying the link between genetics and malaria have discovered a mutant gene which leaves people of African and Asian origin susceptible to the disease.

The scientists, from Britain and America, surveyed thousands of people for the study, and found an unexpectedly high number of mutations among many Africans and Asians.

The mutation occurs in a gene responsible for making a protein in the body which attracts the malaria parasite.

The mutant gene causes a deficiency in the protein which in turn makes the carrier more, rather than less, vulnerable to the disease.

One theory behind the discovery which appears in the science journal, Nature, is that the deficiency protects against other common diseases.

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