Low levels of fibrin-stabilizing factor (factor XIII) in human Plasmodium falciparum malaria: correlation with clinical severity.

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  • 1 Department of Medicine, Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg, Germany.

Plasmodium falciparum malaria is associated with procoagulant activity but not with thromboembolism. We measured coagulation factor XIII, i.e., fibrin-stabilizing factor, in 45 patients with falciparum malaria over time. Of these, 22 had organ complications. The factor XIII antigen (subunits A and B) and plasma activity levels were abnormally low in those with falciparum malaria. They increased during antiparasitic therapy. In 14 of 22 patients with complications, but in no patient with mild disease (P < 0.001), subunit A and activity was < 50%. The factor X.III levels were inversely correlated with clinical severity, parasitemia, and human neutrophil elastase (HNE), but not with thrombin-antithrombin III levels. Thus, low factor XIII levels may reflect proteolysis by HNE, rather than procoagulant activity. One could speculate that factor XIII degradation in severe malaria prevents thromboembolism. On the other hand, factor XIII deficiency might reduce protection of the vascular endothelium against HNE and reactive oxygen species, which would promote organ damage.