Division of Immunology, Department of Medicine, Wellesley Hospital, University of Toronto, Department of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool, College of Osteopathic Medicine, Michigan State University, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Some clinical manifestations of severe malaria resemble those of sepsis and there may be mediators of the host response that are common to both sepsis and malaria. Phospholipase A2(PLA2), a proinflammatory enzyme whose expression is induced by tumor necrosis factor (TNF), has been implicated in the pathogenesis of complications of the sepsis syndrome. We examined levels of circulating PLA2 in Plasmodium falciparum malaria and studied the association of PLA2 with disease severity. Plasma PLA2 and TNF were measured in 75 Malawian children with P. falciparum malaria. The mean (SD) plasma PLA2 activity in children with acute malaria was 53,804 (37,256) units/ml as compared with 424 (349) units/ml in 34 healthy controls (P < 0.00001). The mean PLA2 activity in 45 convalescent patients was 2,546 (7,372) units/ml (P < 0.00001). In 48 patients with pretreatment PLA2 activity less than 60,000 units/ml, mortality was 8.3%, while in 27 patients with pretreatment PLA2 levels greater than 60,000 units/ml, mortality was 33.3% (P = 0.008). There were significant correlations between PLA2 and TNF (r = 0.471, P < 0.01), density of parasitemia (r = 0.443, P < 0.0001) and a decrease in hematocrit (r = 0.352, P < 0.005). These data show that P. falciparum malaria is associated with a markedly increased circulating PLA2, especially in patients with severe disease, as manifested by high parasite burden, anemia, coma, and death.