Common west African HLA antigens are associated with protection from severe malaria

Nature. 1991 Aug 15;352(6336):595-600. doi: 10.1038/352595a0.


A large case-control study of malaria in West African children shows that a human leucocyte class I antigen (HLA-Bw53) and an HLA class II haplotype (DRB1*1302-DQB1*0501), common in West Africans but rare in other racial groups, are independently associated with protection from severe malaria. In this population they account for as great a reduction in disease incidence as the sickle-cell haemoglobin variant. These data support the hypothesis that the extraordinary polymorphism of major histocompatibility complex genes has evolved primarily through natural selection by infectious pathogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Gambia
  • Gene Frequency
  • HLA Antigens / genetics*
  • Haplotypes
  • Humans
  • Major Histocompatibility Complex
  • Malaria / genetics
  • Malaria / immunology*
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology
  • Polymorphism, Genetic


  • HLA Antigens