Multiplicity of Plasmodium falciparum infection in pregnancy.

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  • 1 Institute of Tropical Medicine, Charité, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.

Little is known about the distribution and disease association of multiple Plasmodium falciparum infections in pregnant women. Genotyping of the merozoite surface protein-1 region was performed in 332 P. falciparum infected pregnant women in Ghana, and clinical and epidemiologic data were obtained. Overall, 68% of the women were infected with more than one strain (mean number of strains per carrier = 2.9). The multiplicity of infection decreased significantly with an increasing number of pregnancies, and infection with multiple P. falciparum strains was significantly associated with anemia. In logistic regression, women infected with four or more strains were 2.3 times more likely to be anemic than women harboring fewer strains. This association, however, was only observed in women with up to three pregnancies. The results suggest that with increasing gravidity and subsequent infections with multiple strains effective immune mechanisms against more and more strains develop. In pregnant women, the multiplicity of infection may be an important factor for the acquisition and maintenance of immunity against malaria.