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Expert Rev Mol Med. 2009 May 26;11:e16. doi: 10.1017/S1462399409001082.

Adhesion of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes to human cells: molecular mechanisms and therapeutic implications.

Author information

1
Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution, Institute of Immunology and Infection Research, University of Edinburgh, UK. Alex.Rowe@ed.ac.uk

Abstract

Severe malaria has a high mortality rate (15-20%) despite treatment with effective antimalarial drugs. Adjunctive therapies for severe malaria that target the underlying disease process are therefore urgently required. Adhesion of erythrocytes infected with Plasmodium falciparum to human cells has a key role in the pathogenesis of life-threatening malaria and could be targeted with antiadhesion therapy. Parasite adhesion interactions include binding to endothelial cells (cytoadherence), rosetting with uninfected erythrocytes and platelet-mediated clumping of infected erythrocytes. Recent research has started to define the molecular mechanisms of parasite adhesion, and antiadhesion therapies are being explored. However, many fundamental questions regarding the role of parasite adhesion in severe malaria remain unanswered. There is strong evidence that rosetting contributes to severe malaria in sub-Saharan Africa; however, the identity of other parasite adhesion phenotypes that are implicated in disease pathogenesis remains unclear. In addition, the possibility of geographic variation in adhesion phenotypes causing severe malaria, linked to differences in malaria transmission levels and host immunity, has been neglected. Further research is needed to realise the untapped potential of antiadhesion adjunctive therapies, which could revolutionize the treatment of severe malaria and reduce the high mortality rate of the disease.

PMID:
19467172
PMCID:
PMC2878476
DOI:
10.1017/S1462399409001082
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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