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Reports linking human malarial illness and pathology with serum tumor necrosis factor (TNF) levels are now common, although the association is not always precise. Possible reasons for this discrepancy include the reported variation in levels of interleukin-1 (IL-1), a cytokine known to synergize with TNF. We have examined the extent of synergy between recombinant human TNF and either recombinant human IL-1 alpha or recombinant human IL-1 beta in producing hypoglycemia and increasing plasma levels of nitric oxide in malaria (Plasmodium vinckei)-infected CBA mice. Very low concentrations of either IL-1 alpha or IL-1 beta, with negligible effects on their own, greatly enhanced the effectiveness of TNF in bringing about these changes. In particular, synergy in generating nitric oxide, a mediator argued to induce cerebral malaria, was profound. Thus, variation in generation of IL-1 during infection provides one explanation for the poor correlation sometimes encountered between serum TNF levels and clinical condition.

Original publication




Journal article


The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene

Publication Date





735 - 742


John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra.


Animals, Mice, Inbred CBA, Humans, Mice, Malaria, Hypoglycemia, Nitric Oxide, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Recombinant Proteins, Interleukin-1, Analysis of Variance, Drug Synergism, Male