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Int J Parasitol. 2006 Nov;36(13):1389-97. Epub 2006 Sep 1.

Preferential invasion of reticulocytes during late-stage Plasmodium berghei infection accounts for reduced circulating reticulocyte levels.

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Department of Haematology, Prince of Wales Hospital, University of New South Wales, Kensington, NSW 2052, Australia.


Insufficient circulating reticulocytes have been observed during severe malarial anaemia in both human and murine infection, and are often attributed to reduced production of red cell precursors. However, a number of Plasmodium species display a preference for invading reticulocytes rather than erythrocytes. Thus, the reduction in circulating reticulocyte numbers may arise as a result both of increased parasitization and lysis of reticulocytes, as well as decreased production. We have analysed both circulating reticulocyte numbers and the percentage of infected reticulocytes during murine Plasmodium berghei infection. We found a large reduction in circulating numbers when compared with an equivalent chemically induced anaemia. However, mathematical analysis of parasite and red cell numbers revealed the preference of P. berghei for reticulocytes to be approximately 150-fold over that for erythrocytes, leading to increased destruction of reticulocytes. Although erythropoietic suppression is evident during the first week of P. berghei infection, this preferential infection and destruction of reticulocytes is sufficient to mediate ongoing reduced levels of circulating reticulocytes during the latter stages of infection, following compensatory erythropoiesis in response to haemolytic anaemia.

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