Volume 58, Issue 4
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Agglutination and rosette formation are in vitro characteristics of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes, which have been associated with host protective immune responses and also with parasite virulence. The present study was carried out in an area of seasonal and unstable malaria transmission in eastern Sudan. Plasma samples were obtained before, during, and after the transmission season from a volunteer cohort of 64 individuals seven years of age and older. These plasmas were assayed for their ability to agglutinate cultured parasitized erythrocytes originally obtained from acute malaria infection samples taken from five of the cohort members. Our data show that the capacity of donor plasma samples to agglutinate parasitized cells depended largely on the time of sampling relative to the transmission season, at least within this epidemiologic setting. Thus, although less than half of the pretransmission season samples could agglutinate any of the five lines of cultured parasites, all post-transmission season samples could agglutinate at least one of the parasite lines, with 74% agglutinating two or more lines. This increase in the agglutination capacity of individual plasma samples after the transmission season occurred essentially regardless of whether an individual had experienced a clinical malaria attack during the transmission season. The study thus confirms the acquisition of agglutinating antibodies following episodes of clinical malaria, but also demonstrates that such acquisition can take place in the absence of disease, presumably as a consequence of subclinical infection. This is the first demonstration of marked seasonal fluctuations in the capacity of individuals' sera to agglutinate parasitized red blood cells. Possible explanations for this effect include a decrease in the levels of agglutinating antibodies between seasons, or shifts in the antigens being recognized by such antibodies from one transmission season to the next. Finally, we showed the existence of marked seasonal fluctuation in the levels of agglutinating antibodies, either because levels of such antibodies are not sustained between seasons or because the antigens recognized change from one season to the next.


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