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Cytokine levels during mild and cerebral falciparum malaria in children living in a mesoendemic area

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Cell-mediated immunity and cytokines are probably involved in the pathogenesis of malaria. To investigate the role and the activity of different immune cells, we measured levels of tumour necrosis factor-(TNF-α), gamma interferon (IFN-) and several interleukins (IL-2, IL-4, IL-6 and IL-10) in children with mild (MM) and cerebral (CM) Plasmodium falciparum malaria and compared them with those of healthy children from Guadalupe – Lobata District, St. Tomé Island, where malaria is mesoendemic. Both groups of patients had significantly higher levels of IL-6, IL-10 and TNF-α than controls. For IL-2, IL-4 and IFN- we found no difference between the groups. However, 24 h after admission the levels of IL-10 and IL-6 were significantly higher in CM than in MM patients, although 7 days after treatment they returned to normal levels, similar to those found in control children. Therefore, TNF-α IL-6 and IL-10 increase during Plasmodium falciparum attacks in all children, not only in those with cerebral malaria. This finding suggests the activation of the monocyte/macrophage system during the early stage of clinical malaria.

Keywords: Plasmodium falciparum; St. Tomé Island; cerebral malaria; cytokines; mild malaria

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: 1: Laboratory of Protozoology, Department of Parasitology, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium, , 2: Laboratory of Immunology, Department of Microbiology, Prince Leopold Institute of Tropical Medicine, Antwerp, Belgium, 3: Department of Pathology, University of Antwerp, Belgium.

Publication date: July 1, 1997


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