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Parasite Immunol. 2008 Mar;30(3):133-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3024.2007.01008.x. Epub 2007 Dec 19.

A decrease of plasma macrophage migration inhibitory factor concentration is associated with lower numbers of circulating lymphocytes in experimental Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


Macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) has recently been implicated in the pathogenesis of malarial anaemia. However, field studies have reported contradictory results on circulating MIF concentrations in patients with clinically overt Plasmodium falciparum malaria. We determined plasma MIF levels over time in 10 healthy volunteers during experimental P. falciparum infection. Under fully controlled conditions, MIF levels decreased significantly during early blood-stage infection and reached a nadir at day 8 post-infection. A decrease in the number of circulating lymphocytes, which are an important source of MIF production, paralleled the decrease in MIF levels. Monocyte/macrophage counts remained unchanged. At MIF nadir, the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL)-10, which is an inhibitor of T-cell MIF production, was detectable in only 2 of 10 volunteers. Plasma concentrations of the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-8 and IL-1beta were only marginally elevated. We conclude that circulating MIF levels decrease early in blood-stage malaria as a result of the decline in circulating lymphocytes.

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