Malaria cases in the Archipelago region are generally high, but, strangely the same is not the case among many Cape Verdeans. This is because the enslaved Africans who were forcefully shipped to Cape Verde by Portuguese sailors had genes that were resistant to malaria.
Though the enslaved were bitten by mosquitoes on the shores of Cape Verde, they were rarely attacked by malaria compared to the European colonialists, according to Duke Today.
The malaria parasite in the region is known as plasmodium vivax and affects one-third of the world’s population. But, this parasite is unable to attack the red blood cells of the Cape Verdeans. This was captured in a journal authored by a researcher with the University of Leicester, Sandra Beleza.
The conclusion was arrived at after the researchers studied DNA samples picked from 563 participants who live in the Archipelago region. The researchers said they found that malaria among other Island communities was high compared to samples linked to Cape Verdeans.
The team observed that communities like Santiago were prone to malaria given the reality that their ancestors were also brought from Europe to the Archipelago region. The researchers said that based on their findings, life expectancy among the Cape Verdeans is high compared to other islanders.
In other words, the chances of a person living long after exposure to the malaria parasite favors a Cape Verdean over someone in Santiago.
The team found out that the Cape Verdeans had a stronger gene as a result of intermingling between Africans and Europeans. This explains why there is a growing number of persons in Cape Verde with the genes that protect them against the malaria parasite.
The scientists said the changes in genes were a result of evolution 500 years ago. This resistance to malaria was first reported by a Ph.D. student, Iman Hamid, when he worked in assistant professor Amy Goldberg’s lab at Duke University.
The scientists said they found the cycle of evolution of malaria resistance fascinating at a time when malaria is claiming the lives of many in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Researcher Beleza said the limitation of their study was that they did not stretch the research to include other island communities except to compare Santiago and Cape Verde. She said their findings however show that the changes in the genes were not an event associated with early men who lived there but interactions in the immediate past.
She explained that changes in genes in the shortest time frame of 10 to 100 generations are difficult to establish. She added that the challenge in drawing a pattern in gene mutation during a short period of time is because of the dependence on traditional statistical methods.
Beleza said they relied on genetic ancestry technology to determine the changes in the genes of Cape Verdeans and their history which had been missed by other researchers in the past.
The researchers have aspirations of researching gene changes among other populations to understand gene mutations better.