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Infect Immun. 1994 Oct;62(10):4374-9.

Increased concentrations of interleukin-6 and interleukin-1 receptor antagonist and decreased concentrations of beta-2-glycoprotein I in Gambian children with cerebral malaria.

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Department of Infectious Diseases, University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), Copenhagen, Denmark.


To investigate the pathogenic versus the protective role of cytokines and toxin-binding factors in Plasmodium falciparum infections, we measured the concentrations of tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1 alpha), IL-1 beta, IL-1 receptor antagonist, and IL-6, as well as soluble receptors of tumor necrosis factor and IL-6 (sIL-6R) in serum of Gambian children with cerebral malaria, mild or asymptomatic malaria, or other illnesses unrelated to malaria. Because cytokine secretion may be triggered by toxic structures containing phosphatidylinositol (PI), we also measured concentrations of anti-PI antibodies and the PI-binding serum protein beta-2-glycoprotein I. We found increased concentrations of IL-6, sIL-6R, IL-1ra, and some immunoglobulin M antibodies against PI in children with cerebral malaria, but those who died had decreased concentrations of beta-2-glycoprotein I. We conclude that increased concentrations of cytokines and soluble cytokine receptors represent a normal host response to P. falciparum infections but that excessive secretion of cytokines like IL-6 may predispose to cerebral malaria and a fatal outcome while beta-2-glycoprotein I may protect against a fatal outcome of cerebral malaria.

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