Serum Neopterin, Interleukin-4, and Interleukin-6 Concentrations in Cerebral Malaria Patients and the Effect of Iron Chelation Therapy

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  • Department of Pediatrics, Pennsylvania State University Hershey Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Innsbruck, Department of Medicine, George Washington University Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania, Austria

To determine if iron chelation therapy alters immune responses in children with cerebral malaria, we retrospectively measured mean serum levels of neopterin, interleukin-4 (IL-4), and IL-6 in children who received desferrioxamine B or placebo for three days in addition to quinine-based therapy. Mean levels of neopterin, IL-4, and IL-6 were elevated above the expected normal range on admission. Neopterin correlated significantly with the degree of anemia, IL-4 with the duration of fever prior to admission, and IL-6 with parasite density. Serial measurements of cytokines and neopterin were performed over four days in 39 children, 21 randomized to receive desferrioxamine B and 18 to receive placebo. Mean concentrations of neopterin did not change significantly in either group while levels of IL-4 increased significantly in the placebo group (P = 0.04) but remained unchanged in the desferrioxamine B group. Interleukin-6 concentrations decreased markedly in both groups (P < 0.025). Stable IL-4 levels in children given desferrioxamine B may represent an inhibition of the T helper lymphocyte-2 (TH-2) response resulting from a strengthened TH-1 response associated with iron chelation therapy. Any effect of iron chelation on immunity in the setting of severe malaria will have to be confirmed in future prospective investigations.