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Br J Haematol. 1987 Jul;66(3):295-306.

The bone marrow in human cerebral malaria: parasite sequestration within sinusoids.


Bone marrow aspirates from patients with cerebral malaria were studied with the light and electron microscopes. Various abnormalities were found including: (1) an increase in plasma cells and macrophages, sometimes to a marked degree; (2) phagocytosis of parasitized red cells by macrophages and of merozoites by neutrophil metamyelocytes, neutrophil granulocytes and macrophages; (3) an increase in the proportion of eosinophil granulocytes and their precursors; (4) the presence of giant metamyelocytes; and (5) morphological abnormalities of erythroblasts, particularly irregularly-shaped nuclei and karyorrhexis. A high percentage of the red cells within marrow sinusoids were parasitized and the parasitized cells were attached to the endothelium. Some marrow sinusoids were packed with and completely obstructed by parasitized cells. Strands of electron-dense material were sometimes found connecting the knobs of parasitized red cells to endothelial cells or to the knobs of adjacent parasitized red cells. A striking finding was a complex interdigitation between cytoplasmic processes developed by some of the parasitized red cells and those developed by the endothelial cells to which they were attached. Occasionally, cytoplasmic processes arising from marginated parasitized red cells completely penetrated the endothelial cell and emerged extravascularly. Several parasitized red cells were also found extravascularly between haemopoietic cells. Sequestration of parasitized red cells within small blood vessels may play a part in the pathogenesis not only of the encephalopathy of cerebral malaria but also of the bone marrow dysfunction in severe malaria.

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