It's in the Blood! A Documentary History of Linus Pauling, Hemoglobin and Sickle Cell Anemia All Documents and Media  
Home | Search | Narrative | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day

All Documents and Media

"Abnormal Hemoglobin Molecules in Relation to Disease"
"Abnormal Hemoglobin Molecules in Relation to Disease" April 21, 1972.
Lecture delivered at Michigan State University.

The Effect of Sickle Cell Disease on the Spread of Malaria. (1:59)

Download Audio File (Mp3) File to Your Computer


Linus Pauling: This shows where the sickle cell gene is found. And, you know, it turns out that the sickle cell gene is found in these areas because they are malarial, and the sickle cell gene protects against malaria. In some regions in central Africa, almost everyone is a sickle cell heterozygote. You can see what happens: the heterozygotes marry one another, a quarter of their children are normal and die from malaria, and a quarter are sickle cell homozygotes and die of sickle cell disease, but half of them survive. Well, it’s only recently that a fifty-percent yield in children has been considered unsatisfactory, so this was a good step.

This is the reason that the gene spread so fast - the heterozygotes were protected. You only needed to get one of these genes to survive against malaria. If it had been the homozygotes, if it were a feebler mutation such that the homozygotes were protected, it wouldn’t spread because you wouldn’t have any homozygotes. And you would have to have in-breeding for awhile before you got any homozygotes.

Probably mutations of this sort take place in two steps; another ten-thousand years, probably, would have seen the sickle cell gene disappearing and another gene taking its place with the homozygotes protected against malaria, everybody protected against malaria. This gene has its incidence such that you could calculate that it would only take about a thousand years for the gene to spread through a population, forty generations; a much larger number of viable survivors for people carrying the gene than those not carrying the gene.


Creator: Linus Pauling
Clip ID: 1972v.3-malaria

Full Work

Creator: Linus Pauling
Associated: Michigan State University

Date: April 21, 1972
Genre: sound
ID: 1972v.3
Copyright: More Information

Home | Search | Narrative | Linus Pauling Day-By-Day