Cytoadherence characteristics of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes from Malawian children with severe and uncomplicated malaria.

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  • 1 Malaria Project and Wellcome Trust Centre, College of Medicine, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, Malawi.

Cytoadherence of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes to the microvascular endothelium is believed to be a key factor in the development of cerebral malaria. Erythrocyte rosette formation has been correlated with malaria severity in studies from east and west Africa. We cultured fresh isolates from Malawian children with severe (n = 76) or uncomplicated (n = 79) malaria to pigmented trophozoite stage and examined rosette formation and adherence to CD36, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), chondroitin sulfate A (CSA), and thrombomodulin (TM). Most (126 of 148) isolates bound to CD36, and 76 of 136 bound to ICAM-1. Fewer bound to CSA (40 of 148) or TM (23 of 148). After controlling for parasitemia, there was an inverse association between binding to CD36 (P = 0.004) or ICAM-1 (P = 0.001) and disease severity. Parasites from children with severe malaria anemia bound least to CD36, whereas ICAM-1 binding was lowest in children with cerebral malaria. There was no difference in rosette formation between any of the groups. In Malawian children, there was no evidence of a positive association between adherence to any of the receptors examined and disease severity. The negative association found raises the possibility that adherence to certain receptors could instead be an indicator of a less pathogenic infection.