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Malaria deaths linked to where people live: study

SYDNEY, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) -- Researchers have discovered that people have formed different defences against malaria depending on what part of the world they live in, according to a ground- breaking study.

The study, which involved almost 12,000 people, was conducted over 10 years, across 11 different countries, looked for specific mutations in genes that result in resistance against malaria.

Malaria, which has been wiped out in most parts of the world, still kills between 300,000 and 500,000 people globally each year.

Laboratory head at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Dr Ivo Mueller, who is the Australian member of an international team, said Monday Africa was the world's malaria hot spot, with parts of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia being trouble areas, too.

Mueller said the study showed that there was a whole set of other mutations that protects people from malaria in some countries that is not found in African populations.

"There is a very complicated interplay between malaria and human populations, between the parasite and the human genome," Mueller told Xinhua.

Mueller's research took him to Papua New Guinea, where he tested local people but could not find the mutations that were prevalent in Africa.

"They were not found in Papua New Guinea because people there never acquired these mutations," he said.

Mueller said Africa was still a malaria danger zone because of the high level of transmission, up to 80 percent of the population, and poor health services.

He said the better researchers understood the genome interactions between parasites and hosts, the better they could understand the disease, and this would lead to better medicines and vaccines.

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