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Am J Med. 1989 Aug;87(2):139-43.

Elevated tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin-6 serum levels as markers for complicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

Author information

1
Department of Medicine, Bernhard-Nocht-Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany.

Abstract

PURPOSE:

Tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) has been implicated in the pathology of experimental malaria. To establish its relevance to human malaria, we studied serum levels of two monocyte-derived cytokines, TNF-alpha and interleukin-6 (IL-6), as well as of the lymphocyte-derived mediator interferon gamma (IFN-gamma) in patients with malaria before and during antiparasitic treatment.

PATIENTS AND METHODS:

One hundred twenty serum samples of 40 patients with malaria (Plasmodium falciparum [n = 32], Plasmodium vivax [n = 8]) were analyzed. IL-6 was measured by a highly sensitive and specific bioassay, TNF-alpha by immunoradiometric assay, and IFN-gamma by radioimmunoassay.

RESULTS:

Elevated cytokine levels could be detected in the majority of patients with P. falciparum malaria before treatment (31 of 32, 21 of 32, and 21 of 32 for TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IFN-gamma, respectively), but only in some patients with P. vivax malaria (four of eight, one of eight, and zero of eight for TNF-alpha, IL-6, and IFN-gamma, respectively). Serum concentrations of the monokines TNF-alpha and IL-6 correlated significantly with parasitic density (p less than 0.001). No such correlation was obtained with the circulating IFN-gamma concentration. The levels of monokines TNF-alpha and IL-6 were markedly elevated in 18 P. falciparum-infected patients with complicated clinical courses (median values for TNF-alpha 172 pg/mL, for IL-6 16 U/mL, peak values: 896 pg/mL and 1,000 U/mL, respectively). The correlation between TNF-alpha and IL-6 concentrations in serum (n = 40, r = 0.56, p = 0.0002) suggests co-ordinate production of those mediators.

CONCLUSION:

Organ impairment in human malaria was found to be correlated with the amount of circulating cytokine levels of TNF-alpha and IL-6. Thus, imbalances of the cytokine network in untreated P. falciparum infection serve as markers of severity of disease. Modulation of cytokine response could represent a novel approach to the treatment of severe organ dysfunctions in human malaria.

PMID:
2667356
DOI:
10.1016/s0002-9343(89)80688-6
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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