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Plasmodium vivax malaria infections in non-immune individuals manifest as periodic clinical episodes of fever with chills and rigors known as paroxysms. We have demonstrated that in non-immune patients the period of paroxysm is associated with the transient presence of plasma factors which kill gametocytes, the intra-erythrocytic sexual stages of the malaria parasite which transmit the infection from humans to mosquito, rendering them non-infectious to mosquitoes. Gametocyte killing in paroxysm plasma is mediated by tumour necrosis factor (TNF) acting in conjunction with other essential serum factor(s). Plasma TNF levels were elevated during a paroxysm. In semi-immune individuals from a P. vivax-endemic area clinical symptoms of malaria are mild and the parasite killing factors are not induced during paroxysm. Serum TNF levels were correspondingly lower in endemic patients during a paroxysm. Human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) can be stimulated in vitro by extracts of P. vivax blood stage parasites to produce TNF and associated parasite killing factor(s), thus simulating in vitro the events that occur during a paroxysm, this being the release of parasite exo-antigens by rupturing schizonts and the subsequent induction of PBMC to produce TNF and other parasite-killing factors. We were able to show that convalescent serum from P. vivax semi-immune individuals block the induction of TNF and parasite-killing factors by malaria antigens in vitro, presumably through antibodies that neutralize parasite exo-antigens. Thus, individuals living in malaria-endemic areas appear to acquire clinical immunity to malaria by avoiding their induction during infection; we have shown that one such mechanism is the neutralization of parasite exo-antigens that induce the production of parasite killing factors.

Original publication





Publication Date





499 - 505


Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka.


Leukocytes, Mononuclear, Animals, Humans, Culicidae, Plasmodium vivax, Malaria, Vivax, Recurrence, Lipopolysaccharides, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Interleukin-1, Interleukin-6, Antigens, Protozoan, Cytotoxicity, Immunologic, Immune Tolerance, In Vitro Techniques