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Clin Exp Immunol. 2003 Sep;133(3):414-21.

Plasmodium falciparum infection of the placenta affects newborn immune responses.

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MRC Laboratories, Fajara near Banjul, The Gambia.


The effects of exposure to placental malaria infection on newborn immunological responses, in particular Th1/Th2 cytokines and antigen-presenting cell (APC) function, were compared between cord blood mononuclear cells (CBMC) from parasitized and non-parasitized placentas of Gambian women. Cells were analysed in vitro for their ability to respond to mitogens [phorbol myristate acetate (PMA)/ionomycin, phytohaemagglutinin (PHA)], a malaria-unrelated test antigen [purified protein derivative of Mycobacterium tuberculin[purified protein derivative (PPD)] and Plasmodium falciparum schizont extracts. Mitogens induced strong proliferation and secretion of high concentrations of both IL-13 and sCD30 in CBMC from both groups. Conversely, significantly lower amounts of IFN-gamma were induced in the parasitized group in response to low doses of PHA. Protein antigens induced very low amounts of all tested cytokines, in particular IFN-gamma. However, a significantly higher release of sCD30 was observed in response to schizont extracts in the parasitized group. Addition of LPS to activate APC to low doses of PHA or schizont extracts increased the IFN-gamma production in both groups but levels remained lower in CBMC from the parasitized group. This result correlates with the lower production of IL-12 found following lipopolysaccharide (LPS) stimulation in this group. Taken together, these data show that placental infection with P. falciparum affects Th1 differentiation and sCD30 priming of neonatal lymphocytes and that the probable mode of action is via APC.

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