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1.  Neither the HIV Protease Inhibitor Lopinavir-Ritonavir nor the Antimicrobial Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole Prevent Malaria Relapse in Plasmodium cynomolgi-Infected Non-Human Primates 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115506.
Plasmodium vivax malaria causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide, and only one drug is in clinical use that can kill the hypnozoites that cause P. vivax relapses. HIV and P. vivax malaria geographically overlap in many areas of the world, including South America and Asia. Despite the increasing body of knowledge regarding HIV protease inhibitors (HIV PIs) on P. falciparum malaria, there are no data regarding the effects of these treatments on P. vivax's hypnozoite form and clinical relapses of malaria. We have previously shown that the HIV protease inhibitor lopinavir-ritonavir (LPV-RTV) and the antibiotic trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) inhibit Plasmodium actively dividing liver stages in rodent malarias and in vitro in P. falciparum, but effect against Plasmodium dormant hypnozoite forms remains untested. Separately, although other antifolates have been tested against hypnozoites, the antibiotic trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole, commonly used in HIV infection and exposure management, has not been evaluated for hypnozoite-killing activity. Since Plasmodium cynomolgi is an established animal model for the study of liver stages of malaria as a surrogate for P. vivax infection, we investigated the antimalarial activity of these drugs on Plasmodium cynomolgi relapsing malaria in rhesus macaques. Herein, we demonstrate that neither TMP-SMX nor LPV-RTV kills hypnozoite parasite liver stage forms at the doses tested. Because HIV and malaria geographically overlap, and more patients are being managed for HIV infection and exposure, understanding HIV drug impact on malaria infection is important.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0115506
PMCID: PMC4277318  PMID: 25541998
2.  Antibodies to PfSEA-1 block parasite egress from RBCs and protect against malaria infection 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2014;344(6186):871-877.
Novel vaccines are urgently needed to reduce the burden of severe malaria. Using a differential whole-proteome screening method, we identified Plasmodium falciparum schizont egress antigen-1 (PfSEA-1), a 244-kilodalton parasite antigen expressed in schizont-infected red blood cells (RBCs). Antibodies to PfSEA-1 decreased parasite replication by arresting schizont rupture, and conditional disruption of PfSEA-1 resulted in a profound parasite replication defect. Vaccination of mice with recombinant Plasmodium berghei PbSEA-1 significantly reduced parasitemia and delayed mortality after lethal challenge with the Plasmodium berghei strain ANKA. Tanzanian children with antibodies to recombinant PfSEA-1A (rPfSEA-1A) did not experience severe malaria, and Kenyan adolescents and adults with antibodies to rPfSEA-1A had significantly lower parasite densities than individuals without these antibodies. By blocking schizont egress, PfSEA-1 may synergize with other vaccines targeting hepatocyte and RBC invasion.
doi:10.1126/science.1254417
PMCID: PMC4184151  PMID: 24855263
3.  Safety and Comparability of Controlled Human Plasmodium falciparum Infection by Mosquito Bite in Malaria-Naïve Subjects at a New Facility for Sporozoite Challenge 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e109654.
Background
Controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) studies which recapitulate mosquito-borne infection are a critical tool to identify protective vaccine and drug candidates for advancement to field trials. In partnership with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, the CHMI model was established at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute's Malaria Clinical Trials Center (MCTC). Activities and reagents at both centers were aligned to ensure comparability and continued safety of the model. To demonstrate successful implementation, CHMI was performed in six healthy malaria-naïve volunteers.
Methods
All volunteers received NF54 strain Plasmodium falciparum by the bite of five infected Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes under controlled conditions and were monitored for signs and symptoms of malaria and for parasitemia by peripheral blood smear. Subjects were treated upon diagnosis with chloroquine by directly observed therapy. Immunological (T cell and antibody) and molecular diagnostic (real-time quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction [qRT-PCR]) assessments were also performed.
Results
All six volunteers developed patent parasitemia and clinical malaria. No serious adverse events occurred during the study period or for six months post-infection. The mean prepatent period was 11.2 days (range 9–14 days), and geometric mean parasitemia upon diagnosis was 10.8 parasites/µL (range 2–69) by microscopy. qRT-PCR detected parasites an average of 3.7 days (range 2–4 days) earlier than blood smears. All volunteers developed antibodies to the blood-stage antigen merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP-1), which persisted up to six months. Humoral and cellular responses to pre-erythrocytic antigens circumsporozoite protein (CSP) and liver-stage antigen 1 (LSA-1) were limited.
Conclusion
The CHMI model was safe, well tolerated and characterized by consistent prepatent periods, pre-symptomatic diagnosis in 3/6 subjects and adverse event profiles as reported at established centers. The MCTC can now evaluate candidates in the increasingly diverse vaccine and drug pipeline using the CHMI model.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01058226
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0109654
PMCID: PMC4236046  PMID: 25405724
4.  Parasite Burden and Severity of Malaria in Tanzanian Children 
The New England journal of medicine  2014;370(19):1799-1808.
Background
Severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria is a major cause of death in children. The contribution of the parasite burden to the pathogenesis of severe malaria has been controversial.
Methods
We documented P. falciparum infection and disease in Tanzanian children followed from birth for an average of 2 years and for as long as 4 years.
Results
Of the 882 children in our study, 102 had severe malaria, but only 3 had more than two episodes. More than half of first episodes of severe malaria occurred after a second infection. Although parasite levels were higher on average when children had severe rather than mild disease, most children (67 of 102) had high-density infection (>2500 parasites per 200 white cells) with only mild symptoms before severe malaria, after severe malaria, or both. The incidence of severe malaria decreased considerably after infancy, whereas the incidence of high-density infection was similar among all age groups. Infections before and after episodes of severe malaria were associated with similar parasite densities. Nonuse of bed nets, placental malaria at the time of a woman’s second or subsequent delivery, high-transmission season, and absence of the sickle cell trait increased severe-malaria risk and parasite density during infections.
Conclusions
Resistance to severe malaria was not acquired after one or two mild infections. Although the parasite burden was higher on average during episodes of severe malaria, a high parasite burden was often insufficient to cause severe malaria even in children who later were susceptible. The diverging rates of severe disease and high-density infection after infancy, as well as the similar parasite burdens before and after severe malaria, indicate that naturally acquired resistance to severe malaria is not explained by improved control of parasite density. (Funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and others.)
doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1303944
PMCID: PMC4091983  PMID: 24806160
6.  HIV Treatments Reduce Malaria Liver Stage Burden in a Non-Human Primate Model of Malaria Infection at Clinically Relevant Concentrations In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e100138.
We have previously shown that the HIV protease inhibitor lopinavir-ritonavir (LPV-RTV) and the antibiotic trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) inhibit Plasmodium liver stages in rodent malarias and in vitro in P. falciparum. Since clinically relevant levels are better achieved in the non-human-primate model, and since Plasmodium knowlesi is an accepted animal model for the study of liver stages of malaria as a surrogate for P. falciparum infection, we investigated the antimalarial activity of these drugs on Plasmodium knowlesi liver stages in rhesus macaques. We demonstrate that TMP-SMX and TMP-SMX+LPV-RTV (in combination), but not LPV-RTV alone, inhibit liver stage parasite development. Because drugs that inhibit the clinically silent liver stages target parasites when they are present in lower numbers, these results may have implications for eradication efforts.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100138
PMCID: PMC4079689  PMID: 24988386
7.  HIV Treatments Have Malaria Gametocyte Killing and Transmission Blocking Activity 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(1):139-148.
Background. Millions of individuals being treated for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) live in malaria-endemic areas, but the effects of these treatments on malaria transmission are unknown. While drugs like HIV protease inhibitors (PIs) and trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX) have known activity against parasites during liver or asexual blood stages, their effects on transmission stages require further study.
Methods. The HIV PIs lopinavir and saquinavir, the nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor nevirapine, and the antibiotic TMP-SMX were assessed for activity against Plasmodium falciparum transmission stages. The alamarBlue assay was used to determine the effects of drugs on gametocyte viability, and exflagellation was assessed to determine the effects of drugs on gametocyte maturation. The effects of drug on transmission were assessed by calculating the mosquito oocyst count as a marker for infectivity, using standard membrane feeding assays.
Results. Lopinavir and saquinavir have gametocytocidal and transmission blocking activities at or approaching clinically relevant treatment levels, while nevirapine does not. TMP-SMX is not gametocytocidal, but at prophylactic levels it blocks transmission.
Conclusions. Specific HIV treatments have gametocyte killing and transmission-blocking effects. Clinical studies are warranted to evaluate these findings and their potential impact on eradication efforts.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jit132
PMCID: PMC3666138  PMID: 23539746
HIV; malaria; antiretrovirals; TMP-SMX; gametocytes; transmission
8.  Independent Lineages of Highly Sulfadoxine-Resistant Plasmodium falciparum Haplotypes, Eastern Africa 
Emerging Infectious Diseases  2014;20(7):1140-1148.
Parasites with increased resistance to sulfadoxine might undermine malaria control measures.
Sulfadoxine-resistant Plasmodium falciparum undermines malaria prevention with sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. Parasites with a highly resistant mutant dihydropteroate synthase (dhps) haplotype have recently emerged in eastern Africa; they negated preventive benefits of sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine, and might exacerbate placental malaria. We explored emerging lineages of dhps mutant haplotypes in Malawi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania by using analyses of genetic microsatellites flanking the dhps locus. In Malawi, a triple-mutant dhps SGEG (mutant amino acids are underlined) haplotype emerged in 2010 that was closely related to pre-existing double-mutant SGEA haplotypes, suggesting local origination in Malawi. When we compared mutant strains with parasites from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania by multiple independent analyses, we found that SGEG parasites were partitioned into separate lineages by country. These findings support a model of local origination of SGEG dhps haplotypes, rather than geographic diffusion, and have implications for investigations of emergence and effects of parasite drug resistance.
doi:10.3201/eid2007.131720
PMCID: PMC4073871  PMID: 24960247
malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; parasites; sulfadoxine; drug resistance; lineages; genetics; haplotypes; population; eastern Africa
9.  Using infective mosquitoes to challenge monkeys with Plasmodium knowlesi in malaria vaccine studies 
Malaria Journal  2014;13:215.
Background
When rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) are used to test malaria vaccines, animals are often challenged by the intravenous injection of sporozoites. However, natural exposure to malaria comes via mosquito bite, and antibodies can neutralize sporozoites as they traverse the skin. Thus, intravenous injection may not fairly assess humoral immunity from anti-sporozoite malaria vaccines. To better assess malaria vaccines in rhesus, a method to challenge large numbers of monkeys by mosquito bite was developed.
Methods
Several species and strains of mosquitoes were tested for their ability to produce Plasmodium knowlesi sporozoites. Donor monkey parasitaemia effects on oocyst and sporozoite numbers and mosquito mortality were documented. Methylparaben added to mosquito feed was tested to improve mosquito survival. To determine the number of bites needed to infect a monkey, animals were exposed to various numbers of P. knowlesi-infected mosquitoes. Finally, P. knowlesi-infected mosquitoes were used to challenge 17 monkeys in a malaria vaccine trial, and the effect of number of infectious bites on monkey parasitaemia was documented.
Results
Anopheles dirus, Anopheles crascens, and Anopheles dirus X (a cross between the two species) produced large numbers of P. knowlesi sporozoites. Mosquito survival to day 14, when sporozoites fill the salivary glands, averaged only 32% when donor monkeys had a parasitaemia above 2%. However, when donor monkey parasitaemia was below 2%, mosquitoes survived twice as well and contained ample sporozoites in their salivary glands. Adding methylparaben to sugar solutions did not improve survival of infected mosquitoes. Plasmodium knowlesi was very infectious, with all monkeys developing blood stage infections if one or more infected mosquitoes successfully fed. There was also a dose-response, with monkeys that received higher numbers of infected mosquito bites developing malaria sooner.
Conclusions
Anopheles dirus, An. crascens and a cross between these two species all were excellent vectors for P. knowlesi. High donor monkey parasitaemia was associated with poor mosquito survival. A single infected mosquito bite is likely sufficient to infect a monkey with P. knowlesi. It is possible to efficiently challenge large groups of monkeys by mosquito bite, which will be useful for P. knowlesi vaccine studies.
doi:10.1186/1475-2875-13-215
PMCID: PMC4070636  PMID: 24893777
Monkey; Rhesus; Macaca mulatta; Plasmodium knowlesi; Anopheles dirus; Anopheles crascens; Vaccine; Methylparaben; Mosquito; Challenge
10.  Iron, anemia and hepcidin in malaria 
Malaria and iron have a complex but important relationship. Plasmodium proliferation requires iron, both during the clinically silent liver stage of growth and in the disease-associated phase of erythrocyte infection. Precisely how the protozoan acquires its iron from its mammalian host remains unclear, but iron chelators can inhibit pathogen growth in vitro and in animal models. In humans, iron deficiency appears to protect against severe malaria, while iron supplementation increases risks of infection and disease. Malaria itself causes profound disturbances in physiological iron distribution and utilization, through mechanisms that include hemolysis, release of heme, dyserythropoiesis, anemia, deposition of iron in macrophages, and inhibition of dietary iron absorption. These effects have significant consequences. Malarial anemia is a major global health problem, especially in children, that remains incompletely understood and is not straightforward to treat. Furthermore, the changes in iron metabolism during a malaria infection may modulate susceptibility to co-infections. The release of heme and accumulation of iron in granulocytes may explain increased vulnerability to non-typhoidal Salmonella during malaria. The redistribution of iron away from hepatocytes and into macrophages may confer host resistance to superinfection, whereby blood-stage parasitemia prevents the development of a second liver-stage Plasmodium infection in the same organism. Key to understanding the pathophysiology of iron metabolism in malaria is the activity of the iron regulatory hormone hepcidin. Hepcidin is upregulated during blood-stage parasitemia and likely mediates much of the iron redistribution that accompanies disease. Understanding the regulation and role of hepcidin may offer new opportunities to combat malaria and formulate better approaches to treat anemia in the developing world.
doi:10.3389/fphar.2014.00125
PMCID: PMC4039013  PMID: 24910614
hepcidin; malaria; iron; anemia; global health
11.  The Biological Reference Repository (BioR): a rapid and flexible system for genomics annotation 
Bioinformatics  2014;30(13):1920-1922.
Motivation: The Biological Reference Repository (BioR) is a toolkit for annotating variants. BioR stores public and user-specific annotation sources in indexed JSON-encoded flat files (catalogs). The BioR toolkit provides the functionality to combine and retrieve annotation from these catalogs via the command-line interface. Several catalogs from commonly used annotation sources and instructions for creating user-specific catalogs are provided. Commands from the toolkit can be combined with other UNIX commands for advanced annotation processing. We also provide instructions for the development of custom annotation pipelines.
Availability and implementation: The package is implemented in Java and makes use of external tools written in Java and Perl. The toolkit can be executed on Mac OS X 10.5 and above or any Linux distribution. The BioR application, quickstart, and user guide documents and many biological examples are available at http://bioinformaticstools.mayo.edu.
Contact: Kocher.JeanPierre@mayo.edu
Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
doi:10.1093/bioinformatics/btu137
PMCID: PMC4071205  PMID: 24618464
12.  Determination of protein concentration for protein-protein conjugates using ultraviolet absorption 
Journal of immunological methods  2012;387(1-2):317-321.
The present study reports a method to determine the total protein concentration or concentration of a protein of interest in a protein-protein conjugate using ultraviolet absorption, after determining the molar ratio of proteins in the conjugates, from which an extinction coefficient can be calculated. A Microsoft Excel solver-based template using amino acid analysis data was developed for determining the molar ratio. The percent mass of each protein in the conjugate is calculated from the amino acid composition data using the least squares method in the Microsoft Excel solver function, and the percent mass is converted to molar portion of each protein using corresponding molecular weight. A molar ratio is obtained by dividing the molar portion of protein 1 by the molar portion of protein 2. A weighted extinction coefficient is calculated using the molar ratio, and the total protein concentration is determined using ultraviolet absorption at 280 nm. The accuracy of the method was verified using mixtures of known proteins. The present study provides a rapid, simple and accurate method for determining protein concentration in protein-protein conjugates.
doi:10.1016/j.jim.2012.10.011
PMCID: PMC3529773  PMID: 23098838
Concentration of protein-protein conjugate; molar ratio; Microsoft Excel solver; Amino acid analysis; least square analysis
13.  HIV Nonnucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors and Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole Inhibit Plasmodium Liver Stages 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2012;206(11):1706-1714.
Background. Although nonnucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) are usually part of first-line treatment regimens for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), their activity on Plasmodium liver stages remains unexplored. Additionally, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (TMP-SMX), used for opportunistic infection prophylaxis in HIV-exposed infants and HIV-infected patients, reduces clinical episodes of malaria; however, TMP-SMX effect on Plasmodium liver stages requires further study.
Methods. We characterized NNRTI and TMP-SMX effects on Plasmodium liver stages in vivo using Plasmodium yoelii. On the basis of these results, we conducted in vitro studies assessing TMP-SMX effects on the rodent parasites P. yoelii and Plasmodium berghei and on the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.
Results. Our data showed NNRTI treatment modestly reduced P. yoelii liver stage parasite burden and minimally extended prepatent period. TMP-SMX administration significantly reduced liver stage parasite burden, preventing development of patent parasitemia in vivo. TMP-SMX inhibited development of rodent and P. falciparum liver stage parasites in vitro.
Conclusions. NNRTIs modestly affect liver stage Plasmodium parasites, whereas TMP-SMX prevents patent parasitemia. Because drugs that inhibit liver stages target parasites when they are present in lower numbers, these results may have implications for eradication efforts. Understanding HIV drug effects on Plasmodium liver stages will aid in optimizing treatment regimens for HIV-exposed and HIV-infected infected patients in malaria-endemic areas.
doi:10.1093/infdis/jis602
PMCID: PMC3488198  PMID: 23125449
14.  Cytokine Profiles at Birth Predict Malaria Severity during Infancy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(10):e77214.
Background
Severe malaria risk varies between individuals, and most of this variation remains unexplained. Here, we examined the hypothesis that cytokine profiles at birth reflect inter-individual differences that persist and influence malaria parasite density and disease severity throughout early childhood.
Methods and Findings
Cytokine levels (TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-1β, IL-4, IL-5, IL-6 and IL-10) were measured at birth (cord blood; N=783) and during subsequent routine follow-up visits (peripheral blood) for children enrolled between 2002 and 2006 into a birth cohort in Muheza, Tanzania. Children underwent blood smear and clinical assessments every 2-4 weeks, and at the time of any illness. Cord blood levels of all cytokines were positively correlated with each other (Spearman’s rank correlation). Cord levels of IL-1β and TNF-α (but not other cytokines) correlated with levels of the same cytokine measured at routine visits during early life (P < 0.05). Higher cord levels of IL-1β but not TNF-α were associated with lower parasite densities during infancy (P=0.003; Generalized Estimating Equation (GEE) method), with an average ~40% reduction versus children with low cord IL-1β levels, and with decreased risk of severe malaria during follow-up (Cox regression): adjusted hazard ratio (95% CI) 0.60 (0.39-0.92), P = 0.02.
Conclusion
IL-1β levels at birth are related to future IL-1β levels as well as the risk of severe malaria in early life. The effect on severe malaria risk may be due in part to the effect of inflammatory cytokines to control parasite density.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077214
PMCID: PMC3795067  PMID: 24130857
15.  Antibodies to Escherichia coli-Expressed C-Terminal Domains of Plasmodium falciparum Variant Surface Antigen 2-Chondroitin Sulfate A (VAR2CSA) Inhibit Binding of CSA-Adherent Parasites to Placental Tissue 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(4):1031-1039.
Placental malaria (PM) is characterized by infected erythrocytes (IEs) that selectively bind to chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) and sequester in placental tissue. Variant surface antigen 2-CSA (VAR2CSA), a Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) protein family member, is expressed on the surface of placental IEs and mediates adherence to CSA on the surface of syncytiotrophoblasts. This transmembrane protein contains 6 Duffy binding-like (DBL) domains which might contribute to the specific adhesive properties of IEs. Here, we use laboratory isolate 3D7 VAR2CSA DBL domains expressed in Escherichia coli to generate antibodies specific for this protein. Flow cytometry results showed that antibodies generated against DBL4ε, DBL5ε, DBL6ε, and tandem double domains of DBL4-DBL5 and DBL5-DBL6 all bind to placental parasite isolates and to lab strains selected for CSA binding but do not bind to children's parasites. Antisera to DBL4ε and to DBL5ε inhibit maternal IE binding to placental tissue in a manner comparable to that for plasma collected from multigravid women. These antibodies also inhibit binding to CSA of several field isolates derived from pregnant women, while antibodies to double domains do not enhance the functional immune response. These data support DBL4ε and DBL5ε as vaccine candidates for pregnancy malaria and demonstrate that E. coli is a feasible tool for the large-scale manufacture of a vaccine based on these VAR2CSA domains.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00978-12
PMCID: PMC3639618  PMID: 23319559
16.  Identification of VAR2CSA Domain-Specific Inhibitory Antibodies of the Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 Using a Novel Flow Cytometry Assay 
VAR2CSA, a member of the Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) family, is a leading candidate for use in vaccines to protect first-time mothers from placental malaria (PM). VAR2CSA, which is comprised of a series of six Duffy binding-like (DBL) domains, binds chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) on placental syncytiotrophoblast. Several recombinant DBL domains have been shown to bind CSA. In order to identify and develop recombinant proteins suitable for clinical development, DBL2X and DBL3X, as well as their respective third subdomain (S3) from the FCR3 parasite clone, were expressed in Escherichia coli, refolded, and purified. All but DBL3X-S3 recombinant proteins bound to CSA expressed on Chinese hamster ovary (CHO)-K1 cells but not to CHO-pgsA745 cells, which are CSA negative as determined by flow cytometry. All but DBL3X-S3 bound to CSA on chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (CSPG) as determined by surface plasmon resonance (SPR) analysis. Purified IgG from rats and rabbits immunized with these four recombinant proteins bound homologous and some heterologous parasite-infected erythrocytes (IE). Using a novel flow cytometry inhibition-of-binding assay (flow-IBA), antibodies against DBL3X-S3 inhibited 35% and 45% of IE binding to CSA on CHO-K1 cells compared to results for soluble CSA (sCSA) and purified multigravida (MG) IgG, respectively, from areas in Tanzania to which malaria is endemic. Antibodies generated against the other domains provided little or no inhibition of IE binding to CSA on CHO-K1 cells as determined by the flow cytometry inhibition-of-binding assay. These results demonstrate for the first time the ability to identify antibodies to VAR2CSA DBL domains and subdomains capable of inhibiting VAR2CSA parasite-IE binding to CSA by flow cytometry. The flow cytometry inhibition-of-binding assay was robust and provided an accurate, reproducible, and reliable means to identify blocking of IE binding to CSA and promises to be significant in the development of a vaccine to protect pregnant women.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00638-12
PMCID: PMC3592344  PMID: 23345587
17.  Diagnosing malaria in pregnancy: an update 
Pregnancy malaria (PM) due to Plasmodium falciparum is a major cause of morbidity and mortality for women and their offspring, but is difficult to recognize and diagnose. During PM, parasites typically sequester in the placenta, whereas peripheral blood smears often appear negative. In addition, many infected women remain asymptomatic, especially in areas of high transmission where systemic immunity is high, although sequelae including maternal anemia and intrauterine growth retardation develop insidiously and increase mortality. New rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) have shown promise for malaria diagnosis in nonpregnant individuals, including a product recently approved by the US FDA for use in the USA. However, the sensitivity and specificity of RDTs for diagnosis of PM may be suboptimal. Here, we review the methods that are used to detect or diagnose PM, including blood smear microscopy, RDTs, PCR-based methods, and finally placental histology, which is often cited as the gold standard for use in research studies and clinical trials.
doi:10.1586/eri.12.98
PMCID: PMC3552641  PMID: 23199403
diagnosis; PCR; placenta histology; Plasmodium falciparum; pregnancy malaria; RDT
18.  Multilaboratory Approach to Preclinical Evaluation of Vaccine Immunogens for Placental Malaria 
Infection and Immunity  2013;81(2):487-495.
Pregnancy malaria is caused by Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes that adhere to the placental receptor chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) and sequester in the placenta; women become resistant to pregnancy malaria as they acquire antiadhesion antibodies that target surface proteins of placental parasites. VAR2CSA, a member of the P. falciparum EMP1 variant surface antigen family, is the leading candidate for a pregnancy malaria vaccine. Because VAR2CSA is a high-molecular-weight protein, a vaccine based on the full-length protein may not be feasible. An alternative approach has been to develop a vaccine targeting individual Duffy binding-like (DBL) domains. In this study, a consortium of laboratories under the Pregnancy Malaria Initiative compared the functional activity of antiadhesion antibodies elicited by different VAR2CSA domains and variants produced in prokaryotic and eukaryotic expression systems. Antisera were initially tested against laboratory lines of maternal parasites, and the most promising reagents were evaluated in the field against fresh placental parasite samples. Recombinant proteins expressed in Escherichia coli elicited antibody levels similar to those expressed in eukaryotic systems, as did the two allelic forms of the DBL4 and DBL5 domains. The procedures developed for this head-to-head comparison will be useful for future evaluation and down-selection of malaria vaccine immunogens.
doi:10.1128/IAI.01106-12
PMCID: PMC3553800  PMID: 23208604
19.  Pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccines: identifying the targets 
Expert review of vaccines  2012;11(10):1261-1280.
Pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccines target Plasmodium during its sporozoite and liver stages, and can prevent progression to blood-stage disease, which causes a million deaths each year. Whole organism sporozoite vaccines induce sterile immunity in animals and humans and guide subunit vaccine development. A recombinant protein-in-adjuvant pre-erythrocytic vaccine called RTS,S reduces clinical malaria without preventing infection in field studies and additional antigens may be required to achieve sterile immunity. Although few vaccine antigens have progressed to human testing, new insights into parasite biology, expression profiles and immunobiology have offered new targets for intervention. Future advances require human trials of additional antigens, as well as platforms to induce the durable antibody and cellular responses including CD8+ T cells that contribute to sterile protection.
doi:10.1586/erv.12.92
PMCID: PMC3584156  PMID: 23176657
adjuvants; liver; Plasmodium falciparum; pre-erythrocytic malaria; rodent models; sporozoite; vaccine
20.  Implications of Malaria On Iron Deficiency Control Strategies123 
Advances in Nutrition  2012;3(4):570-578.
The populations in greatest need of iron supplementation are also those at greatest risk of malaria: pregnant women and young children. Iron supplementation has been shown to increase malaria risk in these groups in numerous studies, although this effect is likely diminished by factors such as host immunity, host iron status, and effective malaria surveillance and control. Conversely, the risk of anemia is increased by malaria infections and preventive measures against malaria decrease anemia prevalence in susceptible populations without iron supplementation. Studies have shown that subjects with malaria experience diminished absorption of orally administered iron, so that as a consequence, iron supplementation may have generally reduced efficacy in malarious populations. A possible mechanistic link between malaria, poor absorption of iron, and anemia is provided by recent research on hepcidin, the human iron control hormone. Our improved understanding of iron metabolism may contribute to the control of malaria and the treatment of anemia. Malaria surveillance and control are necessary components of programs to control iron deficiency and may enhance the efficacy of iron supplementation.
doi:10.3945/an.111.001156
PMCID: PMC3649728  PMID: 22797994
21.  Iron Deficiency Protects Against Severe Plasmodium falciparum Malaria and Death in Young Children 
In a longitudinal birth cohort conducted in Tanzania, where transmission of Plasmodium falciparum is intense, naturally occurring iron deficiency predicted reduced risk of malaria and mortality among infants and toddlers.
(See the Editorial Commentary by Awah and Kaneko, on pages 1145–7.)
Background. Iron supplementation may increase malaria morbidity and mortality, but the effect of naturally occurring variation in iron status on malaria risk is not well studied.
Methods. A total of 785 Tanzanian children living in an area of intense malaria transmission were enrolled at birth, and intensively monitored for parasitemia and illness including malaria for up to 3 years, with an average of 47 blood smears. We assayed plasma samples collected at routine healthy-child visits, and evaluated the impact of iron deficiency (ID) on future malaria outcomes and mortality.
Results. ID at routine, well-child visits significantly decreased the odds of subsequent parasitemia (23% decrease, P < .001) and subsequent severe malaria (38% decrease, P = .04). ID was also associated with 60% lower all-cause mortality (P = .04) and 66% lower malaria-associated mortality (P = .11). When sick visits as well as routine healthy-child visits are included in analyses (average of 3 iron status assays/child), ID reduced the prevalence of parasitemia (6.6-fold), hyperparasitemia (24.0-fold), and severe malaria (4.0-fold) at the time of sample collection (all P < .001).
Conclusions. Malaria risk is influenced by physiologic iron status, and therefore iron supplementation may have adverse effects even among children with ID. Future interventional studies should assess whether treatment for ID coupled with effective malaria control can mitigate the risks of iron supplementation for children in areas of malaria transmission.
doi:10.1093/cid/cis010
PMCID: PMC3309886  PMID: 22354919
22.  Structure-Function-Immunogenicity Studies of PfEMP1 Domain DBL2βPF11_0521, a Malaria Parasite Ligand for ICAM-1 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e61323.
Plasmodium falciparum virulence has been ascribed to its ability to sequester in deep vascular beds, mediated by the variant surface antigen family PfEMP1 binding endothelial receptors like ICAM-1. We previously observed that naturally-acquired antibodies that block a PfEMP1 domain, DBL2β of PF11_0521 allele, from binding to the human ICAM1 receptor, reduce the risk of malaria hospitalization in children. Here, we find that DBL2βPF11_0521 binds ICAM-1 in the low nM range and relate the structure of this domain with its function and immunogenicity. We demonstrate that the interaction with ICAM-1 is not impaired by point mutations in the N-terminal subdomain or in the flexible Loop 4 of DBL2βPF11_0521, although both substructures were previously implicated in binding ICAM-1. These data will help to refine the existing model of DBLβ::ICAM-1 interactions. Antibodies raised against full-length DBL2βPF11_0521, but not truncated forms lacking the N terminal fragment, block its interaction with ICAM-1. Our data suggest that full length domain is optimal for displaying functional epitopes and has a broad surface of interaction with ICAM-1 that is not disrupted by individual amino acid substitutions at putative key residues. This information might be important for the future design of anti-malarial vaccines based on PfEMP1 antigens.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0061323
PMCID: PMC3625211  PMID: 23593462
23.  Real-Time Quantitative Reverse Transcription PCR for Monitoring of Blood-Stage Plasmodium falciparum Infections in Malaria Human Challenge Trials 
To detect pre-patent parasitemia, we developed a real-time quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) for the asexual 18S ribosomal RNA (rRNAs) of Plasmodium falciparum. Total nucleic acids extracted from whole blood were combined with control RNA and tested by qRT-PCR. The assay quantified > 98.7% of parasite-containing samples to ±0.5 log10 parasites/mL of the nominal value without false positives. The analytical sensitivity was ≥ 20 parasites/mL. The coefficient of variation was 0.6% and 1.8% within runs and 1.6% and 4.0% between runs for high and low parasitemia specimens, respectively. Using this assay, we determined that A-type 18S rRNAs are stably expressed at 1×104 copies per ring-stage parasite. When used to monitor experimental P. falciparum infection of human volunteers, the assay detected blood-stage infections 3.7 days earlier on average than thick blood smears. This validated, internally controlled qRT-PCR method also uses a small (50 μL) sample volume requiring minimal pre-analytical handling, making it useful for clinical trials.
doi:10.4269/ajtmh.2012.10-0658
PMCID: PMC3284350  PMID: 22403305
24.  CXC Ligand 9 Response to Malaria during Pregnancy Is Associated with Low-Birth-Weight Deliveries 
Infection and Immunity  2012;80(9):3034-3038.
Placental infection with Plasmodium falciparum is associated with increased levels of proinflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α) and gamma interferon (IFN-γ), and previous studies have associated increased levels of these cytokines with low birth weight (LBW), especially for malaria-infected primigravidae. To define the contribution of TNF-α and IFN-γ networks to placental-malaria-associated LBW, we measured chemokines induced by TNF-α and IFN-γ and related them to birth weight in a birth cohort of 782 mother-infant pairs residing in an area of P. falciparum holoendemicity in Tanzania. Among primigravidae, levels of CCL2, CXC ligand 9 (CXCL9), and CXCL13 were significantly higher during malaria infection in both the placenta and peripheral blood. Placental CXCL9 and CXCL13 levels were also higher in placental blood from secundigravidae and multigravidae. In multivariate analyses adjusted for known predictors of birth weight, malaria-infected primigravidae with placental CXCL9 levels in the lowest tertile gave birth to babies who weighed 610 g more than babies born to mothers with high CXCL9 levels. CXCL9 expression is induced by IFN-γ, and the strong association between birth weight and placental CXCL9 is consistent with previous observations relating IFN-γ to poor pregnancy outcomes.
doi:10.1128/IAI.00220-12
PMCID: PMC3418745  PMID: 22689822
25.  Intermittent Preventive Treatment in Pregnant Women Is Associated with Increased Risk of Severe Malaria in Their Offspring 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e56183.
Background
In areas of widespread sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistance, intermittent treatment in pregnancy (IPTp) fails to prevent placental malaria (PM) and may exacerbate drug resistant infections. Because PM predicts increased susceptibility to parasitemia during infancy, we hypothesized that IPTp would also increase susceptibility to malaria infection and disease in the offspring.
Methods
In a birth cohort from NE Tanzania, we evaluated the association between maternal IPTp use and risk of parasitemia and severe malaria in the offspring. Using Cox Proportional Hazards Models as well as Generalized Estimating Equations, we evaluated the effects of IPTp on the entire cohort and on subgroups stratified by PM status at delivery.
Results and Conclusions
Offspring of PM+ women who received IPTp had a dose-dependent decrease in time to first parasitemia (AHR = 2.13, p = 0.04 [95%CI: 1.04, 4.38]). Among all offspring, IPTp was associated with earlier first severe malaria episode (AHR = 2.32, p = 0.02 [95%CI: 1.12, 4.78]) as well as increased overall odds of severe malaria (AOR = 2.31, p = 0.03 [95%CI: 1.09, 4.88]). Cost-benefit analyses of IPTp regimens should consider the long term effects on offspring in addition to pregnancy outcomes.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056183
PMCID: PMC3581554  PMID: 23451036

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