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Blood. 2013 Apr 11;121(15):3016-22. doi: 10.1182/blood-2012-10-461418. Epub 2013 Feb 4.

Circulatory hepcidin is associated with the anti-inflammatory response but not with iron or anemic status in childhood malaria.

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  • 1Division of Parasitology, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK.


Cerebral malaria (CM) and severe malarial anemia (SMA) are the most serious life-threatening clinical syndromes of Plasmodium falciparum infection in childhood. Therefore, it is important to understand the pathology underlying the development of CM and SMA as opposed to uncomplicated malaria (UM). Increased levels of hepcidin have been associated with UM, but its level and role in severe malarial disease remains to be investigated. Plasma and clinical data were obtained as part of a prospective case-control study of severe childhood malaria at the main tertiary hospital of the city of Ibadan, Nigeria. Here, we report that hepcidin levels are lower in children with SMA or CM than in those with milder outcome (UM). While different profiles of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines were observed between the malaria syndromes, circulatory hepcidin levels remained associated with the levels of its regulatory cytokine interleukin-6 and of the anti-inflammatory cytokine inerleukin-10, irrespective of iron status, anemic status, and general acute-phase response. We propose a role for hepcidin in anti-inflammatory processes in childhood malaria.

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