Study Helps To Determine Malaria Susceptibility In Children

Children who were exposed to Plasmodium falciparum “malaria before birth become tolerant to the malaria parasite, or their soluble products,” according to a PLoS Medicine study, which has “unravelled the mystery behind why some children are more susceptible to malaria infection and anaemia,” ANI/Newstrack India reports. This tolerance, which persists after birth and into childhood, erodes the immune system’s ability to attack and destroy parasites and increases the susceptibility of these children to develop a malaria infection and increases their risk for anemia (7/28).

For the study, researchers identified children who had been exposed to P. falciparum malaria in utero from a group of 586 Kenyan newborn babies, according to a Case Western Reserve University press release. “The researchers looked for malaria-specific immune responses in T cells in the newborn babies’ cord blood by measuring the production of cytokines, molecules that either activate or inhibit the immune system. Finally, they examined the infants biannually for three years to monitor the children’s immune responses, susceptibility to malaria infection and risk for anemia,” according to the release (7/27).

According to ANI/Newstrack India, lead researcher, Indu Malhotra, said it is the first time a study has shown why some children are more susceptible to malaria and anemia. She added, “This study is timely given President Obama’s Global Health Initiative to assist developing countries to control malaria, one of the ‘big three’ diseases” (7/28).