Effect of Different Fractions of Heparin on Plasmodium falciparum Merozoite Invasion of Red Blood Cells in Vitro

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  • Department of Immunology, Stockholm University, Department of Infectious Diseases, Karolinska Institute, Roslagstull Hospital, Division of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, Somali National University Mogadishu, Research and Development, Immunobiology, S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Heparin and various heparin fractions were separated according to differences in molecular weight or affinity for antithrombin III and used for the inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum merozoite invasion of red blood cells in vitro. No variation in sensitivity to heparin was found among the four strains of P. falciparum tested; all required approximately 5 µg/ml (0.5 U/ml) of heparin for 50% inhibition of invasion. The most efficient fraction of heparin was the one with low affinity for antithrombin III. Its 50% inhibition concentration was 1 µg/ml, indicating that it was more efficient than unfractionated heparin and other heparin fractions. The effect of heparin was reversible, since washing of heparin-treated cultures containing mainly schizonts showed no inhibition of merozoite invasion. The results suggest that a heparin fraction with no anticoagulant effect might be useful in the treatment of patients with falciparum malaria.