Increased microerythrocyte count in homozygous alpha(+)-thalassaemia contributes to protection against severe malarial anaemia.
ABSTRACT The heritable haemoglobinopathy alpha(+)-thalassaemia is caused by the reduced synthesis of alpha-globin chains that form part of normal adult haemoglobin (Hb). Individuals homozygous for alpha(+)-thalassaemia have microcytosis and an increased erythrocyte count. Alpha(+)-thalassaemia homozygosity confers considerable protection against severe malaria, including severe malarial anaemia (SMA) (Hb concentration < 50 g/l), but does not influence parasite count. We tested the hypothesis that the erythrocyte indices associated with alpha(+)-thalassaemia homozygosity provide a haematological benefit during acute malaria.
Data from children living on the north coast of Papua New Guinea who had participated in a case-control study of the protection afforded by alpha(+)-thalassaemia against severe malaria were reanalysed to assess the genotype-specific reduction in erythrocyte count and Hb levels associated with acute malarial disease. We observed a reduction in median erythrocyte count of approximately 1.5 x 10(12)/l in all children with acute falciparum malaria relative to values in community children (p < 0.001). We developed a simple mathematical model of the linear relationship between Hb concentration and erythrocyte count. This model predicted that children homozygous for alpha(+)-thalassaemia lose less Hb than children of normal genotype for a reduction in erythrocyte count of >1.1 x 10(12)/l as a result of the reduced mean cell Hb in homozygous alpha(+)-thalassaemia. In addition, children homozygous for alpha(+)-thalassaemia require a 10% greater reduction in erythrocyte count than children of normal genotype (p = 0.02) for Hb concentration to fall to 50 g/l, the cutoff for SMA. We estimated that the haematological profile in children homozygous for alpha(+)-thalassaemia reduces the risk of SMA during acute malaria compared to children of normal genotype (relative risk 0.52; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.24-1.12, p = 0.09).
The increased erythrocyte count and microcytosis in children homozygous for alpha(+)-thalassaemia may contribute substantially to their protection against SMA. A lower concentration of Hb per erythrocyte and a larger population of erythrocytes may be a biologically advantageous strategy against the significant reduction in erythrocyte count that occurs during acute infection with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. This haematological profile may reduce the risk of anaemia by other Plasmodium species, as well as other causes of anaemia. Other host polymorphisms that induce an increased erythrocyte count and microcytosis may confer a similar advantage.
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ABSTRACT: The burden of anemia attributable to non-falciparum malarias in regions with Plasmodium co-endemicity is poorly documented. We compared the hematological profile of patients with and without malaria in southern Papua, Indonesia. Clinical and laboratory data were linked for all patients presenting to a referral hospital between April 2004 and December 2012. Data were available on patient demographics, malaria diagnosis, hemoglobin concentration, and clinical outcome, but other potential causes of anemia could not be identified reliably. Of 922,120 patient episodes (837,989 as outpatients and 84,131 as inpatients), a total of 219,845 (23.8%) were associated with a hemoglobin measurement, of whom 67,696 (30.8%) had malaria. Patients with P. malariae infection had the lowest hemoglobin concentration (n = 1,608, mean = 8.93 [95% CI 8.81-9.06]), followed by those with mixed species infections (n = 8,645, mean = 9.22 [95% CI 9.16-9.28]), P. falciparum (n = 37,554, mean = 9.47 [95% CI 9.44-9.50]), and P. vivax (n = 19,858, mean = 9.53 [95% CI 9.49-9.57]); p-value for all comparisons <0.001. Severe anemia (hemoglobin <5 g/dl) was present in 8,151 (3.7%) patients. Compared to patients without malaria, those with mixed Plasmodium infection were at greatest risk of severe anemia (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 3.25 [95% CI 2.99-3.54]); AORs for severe anaemia associated with P. falciparum, P. vivax, and P. malariae were 2.11 (95% CI 2.00-2.23), 1.87 (95% CI 1.74-2.01), and 2.18 (95% CI 1.76-2.67), respectively, p<0.001. Overall, 12.2% (95% CI 11.2%-13.3%) of severe anemia was attributable to non-falciparum infections compared with 15.1% (95% CI 13.9%-16.3%) for P. falciparum monoinfections. Patients with severe anemia had an increased risk of death (AOR = 5.80 [95% CI 5.17-6.50]; p<0.001). Not all patients had a hemoglobin measurement, thus limitations of the study include the potential for selection bias, and possible residual confounding in multivariable analyses. In Papua P. vivax is the dominant cause of severe anemia in early infancy, mixed P. vivax/P. falciparum infections are associated with a greater hematological impairment than either species alone, and in adulthood P. malariae, although rare, is associated with the lowest hemoglobin concentration. These findings highlight the public health importance of integrated genus-wide malaria control strategies in areas of Plasmodium co-endemicity. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.PLoS Medicine 12/2013; 10(12):e1001575. DOI:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001575 · 14.00 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Malaria is a major mosquito-borne public health problem in Thailand with varied haematological consequences. The study sought to elucidate the haematological changes in people who suspected malaria infection and their possible predictive values of malaria infection.Malaria Journal 06/2014; 13(1):218. DOI:10.1186/1475-2875-13-218 · 3.49 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: Background. The mechanisms by which α-thalassemia and sickle cell traits confer protection from severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria are not yet fully elucidated. We hypothesized that hemoglobinopathic erythrocytes reduce the intraerythrocytic multiplication of P. falciparum, potentially delaying the development of life threatening parasite densities until parasite clearing immunity is achieved.Methods. We developed a novel in-vitro assay to quantify the number of merozoites released from an individual schizont, termed the "intraerythrocytic multiplication factor" (IMF).Results. P. falciparum (3D7 line) schizonts produce variable numbers of merozoites in all erythrocyte types tested, with median IMFs of 27, 27, 29, 23, and 23 in control, HbAS, HbSS, and α- and β-thalassemia trait erythrocytes, respectively. IMF correlated strongly (r(2)=0.97, p<0.001) with mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration, and varied significantly with mean corpuscular volume and hemoglobin content. Reduction of IMFs in thalassemia trait erythrocytes was confirmed using clinical parasite isolates with different IMFs. Mathematical modeling of the effect of IMF on malaria progression indicates that the lower IMF in thalassemia trait erythrocytes limits parasite density and anemia severity over the first 2 weeks of parasite replication.Conclusions. P. falciparum IMF, a parasite heritable virulence trait, correlates with erythrocyte indices and is reduced in thalassemia trait erythrocytes. Parasite IMF should be examined in other low-indices erythrocytes.The Journal of Infectious Diseases 03/2014; DOI:10.1093/infdis/jiu203 · 5.78 Impact Factor