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J Exp Med. 1991 Mar 1;173(3):523-9.

Cytokines kill malaria parasites during infection crisis: extracellular complementary factors are essential.

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  • 1Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Malaria infection crisis, at which the parasitemia drops precipitously and the parasite loses infectivity to the mosquito vector, occurs in many natural malaria systems, and has not been explained. We demonstrate that in a simian malaria parasite (Plasmodium cynomolgi in its natural host, the toque monkey), the loss of infectivity during crisis is due to the death of circulating intraerythrocytic gametocytes mediated by crisis serum. These parasite-killing effects in crisis serum are due to the presence in the serum of cytokines tumor necrosis factor and interferon gamma, which are produced by the host as a result of the malaria infection. The killing activity of each cytokine is absolutely dependent upon the presence of additional, as yet unidentified factor(s) in the crisis serum.

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