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J Infect Dis. 2006 Jul 1;194(1):115-22. Epub 2006 May 31.

Genetic analysis of circulating and sequestered populations of Plasmodium falciparum in fatal pediatric malaria.

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Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi.


Falciparum malaria is characterized by cytoadherence of host erythrocytes containing mature asexual-stage parasites and the consequent sequestration of these forms in tissue microvasculature. A postmortem study of pediatric malaria provided us with the opportunity to compare the genetic complexity of circulating and sequestered Plasmodium falciparum populations, in patients with fatal cerebral malaria (CM) versus control subjects with incidental P. falciparum parasitemia who died of causes other than malaria. Parasite genotypes identified in peripheral blood collected at the time of admission to the hospital constituted a subset of those detected in the tissues at death. Despite a higher tissue burden of parasitized erythrocytes in patients with CM than in parasitemic control subjects, parasite populations in tissues from patients with CM were less genetically complex, and the genotypes were more homogeneously distributed throughout the body, than in patients with incidental infection. Our findings support the notion that CM is associated with the emergence of a small number of dominant genotypes in an infected individual.

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