The ongoing study has found that deficiency of enzyme G-6-PD (glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase), which helps red blood cells (RBCs) function normally is a common sex-linked trait in the region. "G6PD is one of many enzymes that help the body process carbohydrates and turn them into energy. G6PD also protects red blood cells from potentially harmful byproducts that can accumulate when a person takes certain medications or when the body is fighting an infection" said M Arabind Singh of ASI Northeast Regional Centre
The ASI study detected cases of disorder like jaundice among those G6PD-deficient persons who had intake of chloroquine. Though researchers have found evidence that the parasite that causes malaria does not survive well in G6PD-deficient cells, yet it is seen that the enzyme's deficiency results in other disorders after a person consumes drugs like chloroquine.
As per the study there was a high incidence of G6PD-deficiency among the Angami Nagas (27 per cent), Mikir Rabhas (19 per cent) and Khasi-Garos (9 per cent).
The ongoing study has also found that Hemoglobin E is one of the characteristic disorders of inhabitants of the region which is a result of a substitute of lysine for glutamic acid at position 26 of the beta chain of hemoglobin. HbE offers protection against malaria, resulting in gene being favored by natural selection where the disease is endemic. The survey has found that the genetic disorder is prevelant among 50 per cent of Bodo-Kacharis of Assam – highest in the world, followed by the Ahoms (25-35 per cent) and Khasis (10-25 per cent).
The ASI feels the study, once completed, may be of value while formulating preventive measures against the deadly disease and even lead to further research on anti-malarial drugs.
In most parts of the Northeast, deaths caused by malaria have been identified and Pf or Plasmodium falciparum malaria is the predominant species - infested areas being located in forest fringes and remote riverine areas where the health infrastructure is poor.
According to a 2006 health report, over 54 percent malaria deaths in the country is reported from the northeast region, where an average 500 people die of the disease every year.