Cytokine signatures of Plasmodium vivax infection during pregnancy and delivery outcomes

Carlota Dobaño, Azucena Bardají, Myriam Arévalo-Herrera, Flor E Martínez-Espinosa, Camila Bôtto-Menezes, Norma Padilla, Michela Menegon, Swati Kochar, Sanjay Kumar Kochar, Holger Unger, Maria Ome-Kaius, Anna Rosanas-Urgell, Adriana Malheiros, Maria Eugenia Castellanos, Dhiraj Hans, Meghna Desai, Aina Casellas, Chetan E Chitnis, Carlo Severini, Ivo MuellerStephen Rogerson, Clara Menéndez, Pilar Requena

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Plasmodium vivax malaria is a neglected disease, particularly during pregnancy. Severe vivax malaria is associated with inflammatory responses but in pregnancy immune alterations make it uncertain as to what cytokine signatures predominate, and how the type and quantity of blood immune mediators influence delivery outcomes. We measured the plasma concentrations of a set of thirty-one biomarkers, comprising cytokines, chemokines and growth factors, in 987 plasma samples from a cohort of 572 pregnant women from five malaria-endemic tropical countries and related these concentrations to delivery outcomes (birth weight and hemoglobin levels) and malaria infection. Samples were collected at recruitment (first antenatal visit) and at delivery (periphery, cord and placenta). At recruitment, we found that P. vivax-infected pregnant women had higher plasma concentrations of proinflammatory (IL-6, IL-1β, CCL4, CCL2, CXCL10) and TH1-related cytokines (mainly IL-12) than uninfected women. This biomarker signature was essentially lost at delivery and was not associated with birth weight nor hemoglobin levels. Antiinflammatory cytokines (IL-10) were positively associated with infection and poor delivery outcomes. CCL11 was the only biomarker to show a negative association with P. vivax infection and its concentration at recruitment was positively associated with hemoglobin levels at delivery. Birth weight was negatively associated with peripheral IL-4 levels at delivery. Our multi-biomarker multicenter study is the first comprehensive one to characterize the immunological signature of P. vivax infection in pregnancy thus far. In conclusion, data show that while TH1 and pro-inflammatory responses are dominant during P. vivax infection in pregnancy, antiinflammatory cytokines may compensate excessive inflammation avoiding poor delivery outcomes, and skewness toward a TH2 response may trigger worse delivery outcomes. CCL11, a chemokine largely neglected in the field of malaria, emerges as an important marker of exposure or mediator in this condition.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0008155
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number5
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cytokines/blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interleukin-10/blood
  • Interleukin-1beta/blood
  • Malaria, Vivax/blood
  • Male
  • Plasmodium vivax/physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic/blood
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Th2 Cells/immunology
  • Young Adult


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