In 2017, scientists discovered a rare blood group variant found only in parts of East Africa that significantly increases the body’s natural resistance to malaria. It wasn’t until recently, however, that scientists started to understand how this rare blood type, called Dantu, boosts immunity to the disease. By analyzing the blood of 42 healthy children, researchers discovered that Dantu red blood cells are able to stop the Plasmodium falciparum by creating a tighter cell membrane which the parasite is unable to penetrate.

This finding represents another important step in the fight against malaria. Existing tools have not proven sufficient to eradicate the disease. The malaria vaccine, for example, is far from efficient, offering only 35% of protection against the disease. As mosquitoes’ resistance to insecticides and drugs increases, scientific discoveries such as this one, along with the development of new tools, are more topical than ever.

The complete study was published in Nature.