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Int J Parasitol. 2004 Dec;34(13-14):1501-16.

Malarial anaemia: mechanisms and implications of insufficient erythropoiesis during blood-stage malaria.

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Centre for Host-Parasite Interactions, Institute of Parasitology, McGill University, Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Que., Canada.


It has been proposed that the basis of severe malarial anaemia, a major cause of morbidity and mortality in endemic areas, is multifactorial. Inappropriately low reticulocytosis is observed in malaria patients suggesting that insufficient erythropoiesis is a major factor. Clinical studies provide conflicting data concerning the production of adequate levels of erythropoietin (EPO) during malaria. Plasmodium chabaudi AS causes non-lethal infection in resistant C57BL/6 mice, and lethal infection in susceptible A/J mice. In P. chabaudi AS infected C57BL/6 and A/J mice, which experience varying degrees of severity of anaemia, kidney EPO production is appropriate to the severity of anaemia and is regulated by haematocrit level. Neutralisation of endogenous EPO during infection leads to lethal anaemia while timely administration of exogenous EPO rescues mice although reticulocytosis is suppressed in proportion to the parasitemia level. Characterisation of alterations in splenic erythroid compartments in naive and P. chabaudi AS infected A/J mice revealed that infection, with or without EPO treatment, leads to sub-optimal increases in TER119+ erythroblasts compared to EPO-treated naive mice. A lower percentage of TER119+ erythroblasts in infected mice undergo terminal differentiation to become mature haemoglobin-producing cells. Furthermore, there is a shift in transferrin receptor (CD71) expression from TER119+ cells to a non-erythroid population. Deficiencies in the number and maturation of TER119+ erythroblasts during infection coincide with blunted proliferation to EPO stimulation in vitro by splenocytes, although a high frequency express EPO receptor (EPOR). Together, these data suggest that during malaria, EPO-induced proliferation of early EPOR+ erythroid progenitors is suppressed, leading to sub-optimal generation of TER119+ erythroblasts. Moreover, a shift in CD71 expression may result in impaired terminal maturation of erythroblasts. Thus, suppressed proliferation, differentiation, and maturation of erythroid precursors in association with inadequate reticulocytosis may be the basis of insufficient erythropoiesis during malaria.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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