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Heterologous infection of pregnant mice induces low birth weight and modifies offspring susceptibility to malaria

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posted on 01.10.2020 by Ankur Sharma, Solomon Conteh, Jean Langhorne, Patrick E Duffy
Pregnancy malaria (PM) is associated with poor pregnancy outcomes, and can arise due to relapse, recrudescence or a re-infection with heterologous parasites. We have used the Plasmodium chabaudi model of pregnancy malaria in C57BL/6 mice to examine recrudescence and heterologous infection using CB and AS parasite strains. After an initial course of patent parasitemia and first recrudescence, CB but not AS parasites were observed to recrudesce again in most animals that became pregnant. Pregnancy exacerbated heterologous CB infection of AS-experienced mice, leading to mortality and impaired post-natal growth of pups. Parasites were detected in placental blood without evidence of sequestration, unlike P. falciparum but similar to other malaria species that infect pregnant women. Inflammatory cytokine levels were elevated in pregnant females during malaria, and associated with intensity of infection and with poor outcomes. Pups born to dams during heterologous infection were more resistant to malaria infections at 6-7 weeks of age, compared to pups born to malaria-experienced but uninfected dams or to malaria-naïve dams. In summary, our mouse model reproduces several features of human PM, including recrudescences, heterologous infections, poor pregnancy outcomes associated with inflammatory cytokines, and modulation of offspring susceptibility to malaria. This model should be further studied to explore mechanisms underlying PM pathogenesis.

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