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Nutritional zinc deficiency, immune capacity and malaria : a study on mediators of immunity to malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum in African children

Authors
  • Mbugi, E.V.
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2009
Source
Wageningen University and Researchcenter Publications
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown
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Abstract

This thesis aimed at investigating the role of genetic and nutritional factors that affect the immune response to malaria in Tanzanian children. The introductory chapter (Chapter 1) reviews the importance of nutritional deficiencies, particularly of zinc, and presents the hypothesis that such deficiencies lead to impaired immunity and contribute to the burden of malaria. The chapter also describes current efforts to prevent malaria through intermittent preventive treatment, both in infants (IPTi) and pregnant women (IPTp). Sulfadoxinepyrimethamine is still used for first-line treatment of uncomplicated malaria, or, in many countries, to prevent malaria and anaemia in pregnancy. In malaria endemic areas, development of resistance to previously valuable antimalarial drugs has been continuously reported for decades. Thus our initial longitudinal study aimed at measuring the prevalence of resistance-associated mutations on dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) and dihydropteroate synthase (DHPS) genes (dhfr and dhps) that confer parasite resistance to sulphadoxinepyrimethamine (SP) that was used as an interim antimalarial drug after chloroquine resistance. Although SP resistance-associated point mutations were highly prevalent, we observed an adequate parasite response to SP (Chapter 2). We speculated that the impact of the dhfr and dhps mutations on SP resistance may be dependent at least in part on the protective immunity that has developed in response to frequent exposure to infection and may be weighed down by host immunity in endemic areas and thus impacts in the continued use of the drug for treatment of malaria. The impact of other drugs with similar mechanisms of action used as antibiotics in selecting mutations responsible for SP resistance needs therefore to be studied for their modulating activity of the immune response. These findings underscore the relevance to further study the crucial involvement of the immune system in the development of protection against malaria but also affecting the efficacy of treatment modalities of malaria in various African conditions. <br/> In the subsequent cross-sectional studies, we assessed the effect of deficiencies of zinc and magnesium as well as iron deficiency anaemia on malaria-specific cytokine responses indicative of innate immunity to Plasmodium falciparum (Chapter 3). In this study, we used Plasmodium falciparum-parasitised red blood cells (pRBCs) as antigens for in vitro stimulation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Cytokines were measured in the supernatant of cultured PBMCs after 24 hours of stimulation. Zinc deficiency was associated with a marked increase in monocyte-derived TNF-α concentration in children with malarial infection but not in their uninfected peers. In children with malarial infection, iron deficiency anaemia was associated with elevated concentrations of TNF-α, whereas magnesium deficiency in children without malaria seemed to be associated with increased concentrations of IL-10. Our findings reflected plasticity in cytokine profiles of monocytes reacting to malaria infection under conditions of different nutrient deficiencies. Following the observation of the variable impact of micronutrients on innate cytokines, we evaluated the profile of both type I and type II cytokines and whether they were influenced by nutritional and malaria status (Chapter 4). The cytokine measurements were performed at day 7 of stimulation anticipating that this timing was optimal for measuring effects on these cytokines mainly derived from activated T-cells. The results indicated a variable influence of nutrient deficiencies on increased cytokine response with zinc deficiency and iron deficiency anemia having greater impact on type I and magnesium deficiency on type II cytokines. The subsequent study evaluated the plasma levels of naturally acquired antimalarial antibodies of variousIgG subclasses plus the total IgG and IgM levels and whether they were associated with zinc deficiency based on preceding chapters (Chapter 5). The results indicated a high variability in antibody levels with zinc deficiency, varying with age of the affected child. IgG3 appeared to be predominant across all age subgroups within < 5 yrs aged children providing clues that IgG3 might confer immune protection to malaria under conditions of zinc deficiency. Chapter 6 explored the association between CD36 deficiency, P. falciparum in vitro adherence on purified CD36 and anemia in children. CD36 is a receptor that occurs on the surface of activated immune cells and vascular endothelial cells and participates in phagocytosis and lipid metabolism. We hypothesized that it could play a fundamental role in cytoadherence of erythrocytes that are parasitized by Plasmodium. Our results showed that CD36 deficiency was associated with protection against the development of malarial anemia in children and that it may be mediated through reduced cytoadherence of infected red blood cells to vascular endothelium. <br/> These studies demonstrate that despite antimalarial drug resistance, there is a potential for optimizing the immunological protective capacity in the population to confer parasite clearance that can be variably influenced by micronutrient status. Improving nutritional status in this population could be rewarding not only to increase protection to malaria but possibly also to other infections. <br/>

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