New research suggests that the history of sickle-cell disease goes back to a mutation in just one person.
In the Sahara desert, a child was born with increased immunity to malaria, which was important because at the time, in this part of Africa it was wet and rainy and covered with forest.
These conditions are perfect for mosquitoes which also carry malaria, a disease that these days kills one child every two minutes.
With a better chance against an illness that is a major killer, this child with the genetic mutation lived a reasonably healthy life and even had children. Those children spread out, all strengthened with extra defences against malaria and living for longer, and their descendants around the world still have those extra defences today, more than 250 generations later.
But here’s the bad part, if both your parents have that gene mutation, you can end up with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease brings severe pain and other complications to its patients.
The symptoms include shortness of breath, strokes and vision problems. Also, people who inherit the gene from both parents do not have its protection against malaria.
By Jack and Ben – Correspondents for the General News section