Host genetic factors and antibody responses with potential involvement in the susceptibility to malaria

University dissertation from Stockholm : Wenner-Grens institut för experimentell biologi

Abstract: The relatively lower susceptibility to malaria seen in the Fulani ethnic group in Africa, as compared to other sympatric ethnic groups, has been related to genetic regulation of the immune responses. This thesis aimed to describe important pathways related to the regulation of antibodies in the immune responses during a malaria infection. Our results suggest that the higher anti-malarial immune responses seen in the Fulani are not a general hyper-responsiveness in this group, but neither a malaria specific response. Fcγ receptors are important structures in the immune responses, and polymorphisms in these genes were associated with IgG subclass levels, P. falciparum parasitemia and haemoglobin levels, suggesting that these polymorphisms may be a contributing factor to the differential susceptibility to malaria. C-reactive protein levels rise immediately in response to inflammatory stimuli, and the -286 CRP polymorphism was indicated to influence parasite levels, suggesting a possible involvement in the lower susceptibility to malaria seen in the Fulani ethnic group. Several cytokines are important in maintaining the optimal parasite-neutralizing milieu in the host, and we investigated polymorphisms in some of these cytokine genes, in order to establish a possible influence of these on malaria susceptibility. Several of these polymorphisms showed associations with haemoglobin levels, IgG subclass antibody levels and parasitemia, suggesting that IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10 and TNF could affect the susceptibility to malaria and the severity of the malaria infection.Taken together, these data suggest that genetic factors have the ability to affect the antibody responses, and that several pathways can be affected. Moreover, the Fulani have a genetic predisposition for a higher inflammatory response during a malaria infection, which could lower their susceptibility to the disease. However, the control measures for this inflammation still have to be established and evaluated.

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