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Malaria-driven sickle cell trait selection – evidence for modern day human evolution?

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a major cause of death in young children in Africa. The condition is caused by a mutation in the gene encoding the β-globin subunit of the hemoglobin molecule in red blood cells. It is a recessive hereditary disease, meaning that sufferers have inherited the mutated form of the gene from both parents. The mutation causes red blood cells to take on an abnormal sickle like shape, and sufferers of the disease may experience severe infections, attacks of acute pain and stroke. They also have an increased risk of death. Despite the existence of vaccines and therapeutics to manage the condition, 176,000 people died of the disease in 2013.

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