Volume 61, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


Age appears to influence not only the acquisition of clinical immunity to malaria but also the susceptibility to and clinical manifestations of severe malaria. Asymptomatic malaria-exposed Tanzanian children have high production of nitric oxide (NO) and universal expression of leukocyte NO synthase type 2 (NOS2), which may protect against disease. To determine the effects of age and parasitemia on NO production, we measured urine and plasma NO metabolites and leukocyte NOS2 expression in 45 fasting, asymptomatic, malaria-exposed children of different ages, stratifying parasitemia by thick film and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis. Although NO production was significantly higher in thick film-positive children than in thick film-negative children, after adjusting for age and gender, we were unable to detect a difference in NO production in thick film-negative children between those who were PCR positive and PCR negative. The relationship between age and NO production was determined using a generalized additive model adjusted for the effects of gender and parasitemia. Production of NO using all three measures was highest in infancy, decreasing after the first year of life, and then increasing again after 5 years of age. This pattern of age-related NO production is the reverse of the pattern of age-related morbidity from cerebral malaria in coastal Tanzanian children. Elevated production of NO in both infants and older children may be related to age per se and malaria infection respectively, and may be one of the mediators of the anti-disease immunity found most commonly in these two age groups.


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