Immune cell subset behind onset and course of severe malaria

April 24th, 2009 - 5:47 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 24 (ANI): A subset of immune cells could make malaria patients vulnerable towards contracting the severe form of the disease and suffer worse symptoms, according to a new study.

Researchers, led by Monash University immunologist Professor Magdalena Plebanski, found that patients with the severe form of malaria have a specific type of cell in their body, which is absent in people with uncomplicated disease.

This type of cell turns off the immune system and can allow the parasite to grow uncontrollably.

The research team studied the relationship between regulatory T (Treg) cells, parasite burden, and disease severity in adult malaria patients with either uncomplicated or severe malaria.

They compared Treg cell characteristics and saw elevated levels of a new highly suppressive subset of Treg cells in patients with severe malaria.

“The regulatory (Treg) cell subset associated with severe disease in humans expresses a unique combination of surface markers, including TNFRII. Regulatory T (Treg) cells are a small specialized subset of immune cells that suppress the activation and expansion of effector immune cells, which partake in parasite elimination,” said Plebanski.

She added: “Our results indicate that severe malaria is accompanied by the induction of highly suppressive Treg cells that can promote parasite growth and caution against the induction of these Treg cells when developing effective malaria vaccines.”

She claimed that till date, not much was known about what bodily factors enable some patients to fight and survive the disease, while other patients contract the severe form of the disease and sometimes die.

“Targeting this cell type may lead to new drugs and immunotherapeutics against malaria. Further studies are needed to determine if this new cell may also be promoting severe forms of other inflammatory diseases,” said Plebanski.

The study is published in the open access journal PLoS Pathogens. (ANI)

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