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Tissue Antigens. 2012 Feb;79(2):104-13. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-0039.2011.01818.x.

Killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptors and malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum in The Gambia.

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  • 1Medical Research Council Laboratories, Fajara, Banjul, The Gambia.


The relevance of innate immune responses to Plasmodium falciparum infection, in particular the central role of natural killer (NK) cell-derived interferon gamma (IFN-γ), is becoming increasingly recognised. Recently, it has been shown that IFN-γ production in response to P. falciparum antigens is in part regulated by killer-cell immunoglobulin-like receptor (KIR) genes, and a study from malaria-exposed Melanesians suggested an association between KIR genotypes and susceptibility to infection. This prompted us to determine and compare the frequencies of 15 KIR genes in Gambian children presenting with either severe malaria (n = 133) or uncomplicated malaria (n = 188) and in cord-blood population control samples (n = 314) collected from the same area. While no significant differences were observed between severe and uncomplicated cases, proportions of individuals with KIR2DS2+C1 and KIR2DL2+C1 were significantly higher among malaria cases overall than in population control samples. In an exploratory analysis, activating KIR genes KIR2DS2, KIR3DS1 and KIR2DS5 were slightly higher in children in disease subgroups associated with the highest mortality. In addition, our data suggest that homozygosity for KIR genotype A might be associated with different malaria outcomes including protection from infection and higher blood parasitaemia levels in those that do get infected. These findings are consistent with a probable role of KIR genes in determining susceptibility to malaria, and further studies are warranted in different populations.

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