Characterization of a Model of Malaria in the Pregnant Host: Plasmodium berghei in the White Rat

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  • John A. Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii, Preventive Medicine Service, Tripler Army Medical Center, School of Public Health, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii
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This study characterizes a Plasmodium berghei white rat model of P. falciparum malaria in the pregnant human. Seventy-day-old and 114-day-old female rats, given an infecting inoculum at time of mating, had higher parasitemias and a more severe anemia than age- and sex-matched controls. Under these experimental conditions, the parasitemia went to crisis in all animals and there were no fatal infections. In contrast, all animals died when the infection was initiated 7 days after conception, a timing that brought a coincidence of peak parasitemia and term. Pregnancy during the post-crisis subpatent period did not cause recrudescence. At the time of delivery, the parasitemia was consistently higher in the placental (crush smear) blood than in the peripheral (tail) blood. This difference was greatest in animals giving birth shortly before or 1–2 days after the parasitemic crisis. Very young, compact parasite forms predominated in the placental blood, whereas trophozoites predominated in the peripheral blood.