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J Infect Dis. 2004 Jan 15;189(2):190-4. Epub 2004 Jan 5.

The deformability of red blood cells parasitized by Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax.

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Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medical Technology, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.


Red blood cells (RBCs) must deform considerably during their multiple passages through the microvasculature and the sinusoids of the spleen. RBCs infected with Plasmodium falciparum (Pf-IRBCs) become increasingly rigid as they mature but avoid splenic clearance by sequestering in venules and capillaries. In contrast, RBCs infected with P. vivax (Pv-IRBCs) do not sequester. We compared the effects of P. vivax and P. falciparum infection on RBC deformability in a laminar shear flow system. Pf-IRBCs became more rigid as the parasite matured, but equivalent maturation of Pv-IRBCs resulted in a doubling of flexibility. Coincidentally, the IRBC surface area increased from 56.7+/-1.3 microm2 to 74.7+/-0.6 microm2 to 90.9+/-1.1 microm2 in ring-, trophozoite-, and schizont-stage Pv-IRBCs, respectively, whereas Pf-IRBCs did not increase in size. P. vivax increases the deformability of IRBCs and thereby avoids splenic entrapment.

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