Does malarial tolerance, through nitric oxide, explain the low incidence of autoimmune disease in tropical Africa?
Clark IA., al-Yaman FM., Cowden WB., Rockett KA.
Autoimmune disease is generally rare in tropical rural populations. Plasma concentrations of nitrite plus nitrate (reactive nitrogen intermediates), reflecting high nitric-oxide production somewhere in the body, can be high in patients who have cerebral malaria, but even higher in symptom-free parasitised individuals, who are termed malaria-tolerant. We propose that the nitric oxide causing high serum levels of reactive nitrogen intermediates in malaria-tolerant individuals is generated in macrophages during the establishment and maintenance of malarial tolerance, and makes autoimmune disease rare in many tropical rural populations by minimising proliferation of autoreactive T cells. Conversely, innately low levels of nitric-oxide generation in these populations, selected by malarial disease in tropical areas, could rationalise their high frequency of autoimmune disease and hypertension when living in western societies.