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, 28 (2), 179-88

Genetic Factors and Malaria in the Temuan

Genetic Factors and Malaria in the Temuan

A Baer et al. Am J Hum Genet.


The jungle habitat of the Temuan aborigines harbors a variety of infectious diseases, the most notable being malaria. Our study of 15 genetic systems in the Temuan revealed substantial polymorphism and within-population genetic diversity. The polymorphisms for Hb beta, G6PD, and El are of interest in regard to genetic adaptation to malaria. Among the polymorphisms investigated we conclude that G6PD deficiency and elliptocytosis are likely to have malaria-resistant effects as evidenced by their low association with malarial parasitemia or their higher frequency in adults than in children. These findings suggest that the malarial habitat of the Temuans is livable in the long range sense for them because of the cluster of malaria-resistant alleles in their gene pool (G6PD)-, El, and possibly, but not tested here because of its low frequency, Hb beta E). The same condition probably holds for the Semai, the nearest aborigine neighbors of the Temuan (although the Semai have not been tested for malarial parasitemia and for these polymorphisms simultaneously), since the Semai have substantial Hb betaE, G6PD-, and El. The Temuan have a cultural identity system of rituals, beliefs, and certain aspects of language which effectively isolates them genetically from Malays and other nonaborigines. This system hinders the dilution of the malaria-resistant alleles of the Temuan gene pool with the malaria-susceptible alleles of the nonaborigine gene pools.

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