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J Infect Dis. 2005 Jul 15;192(2):331-5. Epub 2005 Jun 14.

High level of var2csa transcription by Plasmodium falciparum isolated from the placenta.

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Institut de Recherche pour le Développement, UR010, Mother and Child Health in the Tropics, Université Paris Descartes, Paris, France.


Plasmodium falciparum parasites that bind to chondroitin sulphate A (CSA) express unique variant surface antigens that are involved in the placental sequestration that precipitates pregnancy-associated malaria (PAM). Two var gene subfamilies, var1csa and var2csa, have been associated with CSA binding. We show here that placental P. falciparum isolates highly transcribed var2csa but not var1csa. var2csa was not transcribed or was only minimally transcribed by parasites isolated from nonpregnant women. Placental parasites that effectively bound to placental chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans transcribed higher levels of var2csa. In pregnant women, levels of var2csa transcription and plasma anti-VAR2CSA immunoglobulin G were associated. These findings support the idea that VAR2CSA plays a crucial role in PAM and strengthen the rationale for the development of VAR2CSA-based vaccines.

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