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Clin Vaccine Immunol. 2006 Mar;13(3):376-9.

Characterization of peripheral blood lymphocyte subsets in patients with acute Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax malaria infections at Wonji Sugar Estate, Ethiopia.

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Ethiopian Health and Nutrition Research Institute (EHNRI), P.O. Box 1242, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


We investigated the absolute counts of CD4+, CD8+, B, NK, and CD3+ cells and total lymphocytes in patients with acute Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax malaria. Three-color flow cytometry was used for enumerating the immune cells. After slide smears were stained with 3% Giemsa stain, parasite species were detected using light microscopy. Data were analyzed using STATA and SPSS software. A total of 204 adults of both sexes (age, >15 years) were included in the study. One hundred fifty-eight were acute malaria patients, of whom 79 (50%) were infected with P. falciparum, 76 (48.1%) were infected with P. vivax, and 3 (1.9%) were infected with both malaria parasites. The remaining 46 subjects were healthy controls. The leukocyte count in P. falciparum patients was lower than that in controls (P=0.015). Absolute counts of CD4+, CD8+, B, and CD3+ cells and total lymphocytes were decreased very significantly during both P. falciparum (P<0.0001) and P. vivax (P<0.0001) infections. However, the NK cell count was an exception in that it was not affected by either P. falciparum or P. vivax malaria. No difference was found in the percentages of CD4, CD8, and CD3 cells in P. falciparum or P. vivax patients compared to controls. In summary, acute malaria infection causes a depletion of lymphocyte populations in the peripheral blood. Thus, special steps should be taken in dealing with malaria patients, including enumeration of peripheral lymphocyte cells for diagnostic purposes and research on peripheral blood to evaluate the immune status of patients.

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