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Folia Biol (Praha). 2000;46(6):210-8.

Malaria blood-stage infection and its control by the immune system.

Author information

  • 1Department of Immunology, Stockholm University, Sweden. peter.perlmann@imun.su.se

Abstract

Malaria is caused by the protozoon Plasmodium, transmitted to humans by Anopheles mosquitoes. The most dangerous of the plasmodia infecting humans is Plasmodium falciparum. The disease is caused by those parasite stages which multiply asexually in red blood cells. In non-immune individuals, P. falciparum may cause severe and life-threatening disease. Another risk group is constituted by pregnant women, particularly during their first pregnancies. Immunity to malaria usually requires repeated exposure to the parasite to become long lasting. One reason for this is the capacity of the parasite to vary the antigens which are major targets for protective antibodies. Antibody-dependent protection is primarily mediated by cytophilic IgG antibodies activating cytotoxic and phagocytic effector functions of neutrophils and monocytes. Malaria infection also involves elevated production of IgE antibodies. However, IgE-containing immune complexes are pathogenic rather than protective by crosslinking IgE receptors (CD23) on monocytes, leading to local overproduction of TNF, a major pathogenic factor in this disease. T cells are essential for both acquisition and regulation of malaria immunity. The major T cells controlling blood stage infections are CD4+ of both the Thl and Th2 subsets. However, T cells carrying the gamma6 receptor also contribute to this control. The balance between the cytokines produced by different cell types is critical for the course of infection, with IFN-gamma having a key role in anti-malaria defence. Blood-stage infections are also under complex genetic control. Among the regulatory genes, those involved in elevated production of TNF are associated with increased risk of severe disease and death due to P. falciparum infection.

PMID:
11140853
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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