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Free Content Maternal vitamin A supplementation and immunity to malaria in pregnancy in Ghanaian primigravids

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Summary Background 

Vitamin A supplementation is believed to enhance immune responses to infection but few studies have assessed its effects on anti-malarial immunity, especially during pregnancy when women are at increased risk from both vitamin A deficiency and pregnancy-associated malaria. The pathological effects of malaria in pregnancy are believed to be due to the sequestration of parasites in the placenta mediated via binding of variant surface antigens (VSA) expressed on the surface of P. falciparum infected red blood cells to placental chondroitin sulphate A (CSA). Methods 

We conducted a randomized double-blind controlled trial of vitamin A supplementation in 98 primigravid Ghanaian women to investigate the effects of vitamin A supplementation on levels of IgG antibodies binding to VSA of a clinical, P. falciparum placental isolate and to two isolates selected (or not) for adherence to CSA in vitro (anti-VSACSA IgG or anti-VSA IgG). Placental malarial infection was determined by placental blood smear and histology. Results 

Vitamin A supplementation was non-significantly associated with a decreased risk of active or chronic-active placental malarial infection compared to past, resolved infection at delivery, as determined by histology (OR = 0.42, P = 0.13 – adjusted for level of education). After adjustment for differences in baseline values, levels of anti-VSACSA IgG to a placental, CSA-adherent isolate (EJ-24) but not to two isolates selected for CSA-adhesion in vitro (FCR3CSA and BusuaCSA), were significantly lower in women receiving vitamin A supplementation than in women receiving placebo (P = 0.002). There was no apparent effect of vitamin A supplementation to levels of Ab to non-CSA-adherent parasite isolates. Conclusions 

The data suggest that the reduction in the levels of anti-VSACSA antibodies to the known placental malaria isolate may reflect reduced intensity or duration of placental parasitaemia in women receiving vitamin A supplementation. These observations are of potential public health significance and deserve further investigation.
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Keywords: antibodies VSA; malaria; pregnancy; vitamin A

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Centre for Medical Parasitology, Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet) and Institute for Medical Microbiology and Immunology, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark 2: Department of Pathology, University of Newcastle, Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK 3: Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK 4: Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK

Publication date: 2005-12-01

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