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Malar J. 2008 Jan 29;7:26. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-7-26.

Maternal peripheral blood level of IL-10 as a marker for inflammatory placental malaria.

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Mother Offspring Malaria Studies (MOMS) Project, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Seattle WA 98109, USA.



Placental malaria (PM) is an important cause of maternal and foetal mortality in tropical areas, and severe sequelae and mortality are related to inflammation in the placenta. Diagnosis is difficult because PM is often asymptomatic, peripheral blood smear examination detects parasitemia as few as half of PM cases, and no peripheral markers have been validated for placental inflammation.


In a cohort of Tanzanian parturients, PM was determined by placental blood smears and placental inflammation was assessed by histology and TNF mRNA levels. Maternal peripheral blood levels of several immune mediators previously implicated in PM pathogenesis, as well as ferritin and leptin were measured. The relationship between the levels of these soluble factors to PM and placental inflammation was examined.


Peripheral levels of TNF, TNF-RI, TNF-RII, IL-1, IL-10, and ferritin were elevated during PM, whereas levels of IFN-gamma, IL-4, IL-5 and IL-6 were unchanged and levels of leptin were decreased. In receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, IL-10 had the greatest area under the curve, and would provide a sensitivity of 60% with a false positive rate of 10%. At a cut off level of 15 pg/mL, IL-10 would detect PM with a sensitivity of 79.5% and a specificity of 84.3%. IL-10 levels correlated with placental inflammatory cells and placental TNF mRNA levels in first time mothers.


These data suggest that IL-10 may have utility as a biomarker for inflammatory PM in research studies, but that additional biomarkers may be required to improve clinical diagnosis and management of malaria during pregnancy.

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