Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Gene protecting Siddis from malaria declining

Gene protecting Siddis from malaria declining
Times of India

Siddis are less prone to malaria compared to their surrounding population due to a gene in their structure that they inherited from Africa. However, due to their adaptability to local surroundings and interaction with local groups, the gene is on the decline. These findings are of a recent study conducted on Siddis in the country by the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), a Hyderabad-based research organization.

The study undertaken by the centre found the link between Bantu tribesmen in central and eastern Africa and Siddi population in Gujarat and Karnataka. As per popular history, Siddis were brought to India by Portuguese traders between the 17th and the 19th centuries, and were sold to the nawabs and the sultans of India to serve as soldiers and slaves. The study filled the missing link between Indian and African tribesmen and established them as members of the same gene pool.

Speaking to TOI, K Thangaraj, senior scientist at CCMB, said that they had taken samples of 60 Siddis in Gujarat. Along with that, 90 samples of members of Charan and Bharwad tribes in Junagadh district of Gujarat, and samples of 94 Siddis and 178 other individuals in Karnataka were also taken. "Our tests showed that 70% genes were found in African tribesmen and 10% of the same gene was present in Siddi population. This was due to the admixture of Siddis with neighbouring population. The adaptation process, generation after generation, has brought a change in Siddis living in areas less susceptible to malaria," Thangaraj said.

Researchers observed that Siddis from Gujarat form a cluster and are more related to their common ancestors. The lineage of current Khoisan-speaking South African population was also found in two samples from Siddis of Gujarat. Researchers have concluded that Siddis have 70% African ancestors and 30% Indian and European ancestors. The study estimates admixing of African natives with Indian population around 200 years or eight generations ago.

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