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Concept: Negrito

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The flagellate protozoan parasite, Giardia intestinalis, is widely distributed throughout the world with a high prevalence in developing countries in the tropics and subtropics, including Malaysia. Approximately 200 million people are infected with the parasite globally, with 500,000 new cases reported annually. This cross-sectional study was conducted among three tribes of Orang Asli communities in Selangor, Perak and Pahang states of Malaysia. The main objective was to determine the prevalence of and risk factors for giardiasis. Stool samples were collected from 500 individuals aged between 2 and 74years (males=219, females=281). The samples were examined with formalin-ether sedimentation and trichrome staining techniques. Socioeconomic data were collected through a pre-tested questionnaire. The overall prevalence of giardiasis was 20.0% with the highest prevalence in the Proto-Malays (33.3%) followed by Negritos (20.1%) and Senois (10.4%). The positive cases showed a decrease with increasing age and most of the positive cases were observed in individuals less than 24years old. Males had significantly higher prevalence than females (χ(2)=5.283, P=0.022). Logistic regression analysis of the overall population studied and the Senoi tribe confirmed that being a child aged less than 15years, being male, the consumption of raw vegetables and the presence of other family members infected with G. intestinalis were the main risk factors for giardiasis. The presence of other family members infected with G. intestinalis was the only risk factor highlighted in the Proto-Malay and Negrito tribes. Diarrhoea was significantly associated with giardiasis. However, the cause and effect relationship has yet to be determined. Thus, screening family members and treating the infected individuals are the main strategies that should be adopted by the public health authority in combating this infection in Orang Asli communities as well as health education regarding good personal and food hygiene practises.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Giardia lamblia, Protozoa, Orang Asli, Pahang, Kelantan, Senoi, Negrito

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Indigenous populations of Malaysia known as Orang Asli (OA) show huge morphological, anthropological and linguistic diversity. However, the genetic history of these populations remained obscure. We performed a high density array genotyping using over 2 million SNPs in 3 major groups of Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay. Structural analyses indicated that although all OA groups are genetically closest to East Asian (EA) populations, they are substantially distinct. We identified a genetic affinity between Andamanese and Malaysian Negritos which may suggest an ancient link between these two groups. We also showed that Senoi and Proto-Malay may be admixtures between Negrito and EA. Formal admixture tests provided evidence of gene flow between Austro-Asiatic speaking OAs and populations from Southeast Asia and South China which suggest a widespread presence of these people in SEA before Austronesian expansion. Elevated linkage disequilibrium (LD) and enriched homozygosity found in OAs reflect isolation and bottlenecks experienced. Estimates based on Ne and LD indicated that these populations diverged from East Asians during the late Pleistocene (14.5 to 8 YBP). The continuum in divergence time from Negritos to Senoi and Proto-Malay in combination with ancestral markers provides evidences of multiple waves of migration into SEA starting with the first Out-of-Africa dispersals followed by Early-train and subsequent Austronesian expansions.

Concepts: Southeast Asia, Population genetics, Asia, East Asia, Malaysia, Orang Asli, Negrito, Austronesian languages

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Currently, information on prevalence of soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections among different tribes of Orang Asli (aboriginal) is scarce in Malaysia. The present study is a cross-sectional study aimed at determining the factors associated with the prevalence of STH infections among the Proto-Malay, Negrito and Senoi tribes. Faecal samples were collected from 500 participants and socioeconomic data was collected via pre-tested questionnaire. All samples were processed using formalin-ether sedimentation and Wheatley’s trichrome staining. Trichuris trichiura (57%) was the most common STH seen among the participants, followed by Ascaris lumbricoides (23.8%) and hookworm (7.4%). Trichuriasis and ascariasis showed an age-dependency relationship; significantly higher rates were observed among Senois who aged <15 years. Likewise, Negritos also showed an age-dependency association with ascariasis affecting mainly the under 15 years old individuals. Multivariate logistic regression model indicated the following predictors of trichuriasis among these communities; being aged <15 years, consuming raw vegetables, belonging to a large household members (≥8) and earning low household income (

Concepts: Nematodes, Neglected diseases, Hookworm, Parasitic worm, Orang Asli, Albendazole, Negrito, Ascaris lumbricoides

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The “negrito hypothesis” suggests that populations of smallbodied foragers in South and Southeast Asia who share common phenotypic characteristics may also share a common, ancient origin. The key defining characteristics of the “negrito” phenotype, small body size, dark skin, and tightly curled hair, have been interpreted as linking these populations to sub-Saharan Africans. The underlying assumption of this interpretation is that the observed phenotypic similarities likely reflect shared ancestry rather than phenotypic convergence. Current genetic evidence is inconclusive, as it both demonstrates that negrito populations have genetic affinities with neighboring populations but also rare and ancient variation that suggests considerable isolation. This study investigates the skeletal phenotype of Andaman Islanders and Aeta foragers from the Philippines in the context of the phenotypic variation among other hunter-gatherers globally, to test whether they show a common, unique physique apart from small body size. Particular emphasis is placed on the comparison of negrito phenotypes to African, Asian, and Australian hunter-gatherer diversity to investigate phenotypic similarities to other populations globally. The results demonstrate that despite sharing small adult stature, the Andaman Islanders and Aeta show variation in body dimensions. In particular, the Andaman Islanders share a pattern of narrow bi-iliac breadth and short upper limbs with the Khoisan (Later Stone Age Southern Africans), whereas the Aeta and Efé show broader bi-iliac breadths relative to lower limb lengths. Although general similarities in size and proportions remain between the Andamanese and Aeta, differences in humero-femoral indices and arm length between these groups and the Efé demonstrate that there is not a generic “pygmy” phenotype. Our interpretations of negrito origins and adaptation must account for this phenotypic variation.

Concepts: Gene, Natural selection, Evolution, Phenotype, Philippines, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andaman Islands, Negrito

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The so-called negritos adapt not just to a tropical forest environment but also to an environment characterized by perturbations and fluctuations. As with other hunter-gatherers in the region and, indeed, throughout the world, they use both social and ecological methods to enhance their chances of survival in this changing environment: socially, they have developed networks of trading and marriage partners; ecologically, they maintain patches of key resources that are available for future harvesting. As evidenced in the case of the Batek (Orang Asli), patterns of forest structure and composition are sometimes direct outcomes of intentional resource concentration and enrichment strategies. While little of the above is controversial anthropologically, what has drawn some debate is the nature of the relationship with partner societies. Conventional wisdom posits relations of inequality between foragers and “others”: foragers and farmers are often construed as hierarchical dyads where foragers supply products or labor to farmers in exchange for agricultural harvests and other trade goods. This kind of adaptation appears to be one of divergent specialization. However, there are cases, such as in the relationship between Batek and Semaq Beri, where both societies follow a roughly similar mode of adaptation, and specialization has not materialized. In sum, while not denying that hierarchy and inequality exist, I suggest that they have to be contextualized within a larger strand of relationships that includes both hierarchy and egality. Further, such relationships are part of the general portfolio of risk reduction strategies, following which access to widely scattered environmental resources, and passage from one location to another, is enhanced not by competing with and displacing neighbors but by maintaining a flexible regime of friendly exchange partners.

Concepts: Ecology, Forest, Rainforest, Tropical rainforest, Adaptation, Social stratification, Orang Asli, Negrito

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Blastocystis has been described as the most common intestinal parasite in humans and has an increased impact on public health. However, the transmission of this parasite has not been conclusively determined.

Concepts: Health, Intestinal parasite, Malaysia, Orang Asli, Senoi, Negrito, Ethnic groups in Malaysia, Indigenous peoples of Southeast Asia