According to a study run by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal), an institution supported by the La Caixa Foundation regulates the productivity of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines at the age of two years before it is protected from an early childhood in clinical malaria. The results also showed that early exposure to the parasite does not affect the risk of developing the disease, although it could later influence the immune response that is characteristic of the parasite.
Malaria affects children under the age of five who need to develop effective immunity against the worst forms of illness. It is known that certain antibodies specific for parasites are protected, but little is known about the known protective role of mediators (cytokines) produced by cells of the immune system. Furthermore, it is not clear whether the exposure time of the first exposure of the parasite during lactation affects the elimination of such cytokines.
In this study, Carlota Dobaño and her team assessed whether cytokines produced during the first two years after birth had an impact on the risk of further malaria. They also analyzed whether the exposure time of the parasite changes the cytokine response. The study included more than 300 newborns from Maghar, villages in southern Mozambique, who received either unprepared malaria treatment in the first year of their life. The production of cytokines in blood cells was measured at different time points in the first two years, and participants were followed by clinical malaria for up to four years.
The results suggest that the pro-inflammatory signature (cytokines IL-1, IL-6 and TNF), followed by an anti-inflammatory (cytokine) signature (IL-10) during the first and second years of life, is associated with a lower risk of clinical malaria between age 3 and 4. "This makes sense because IL-10 pushes excessive inflammation," explains Dobaño.
In contrast, the exposure time exposure of the parasite did not have a clinical effect: children who received preventive treatment – and who were later exposed to the parasite – had a modified cytokine profile, but this did not reduce the risk of malaria in the next two years. "Preventive treatment of malaria in the first year after birth does not reduce the risk of malaria in the early childhood, but it would be important to influence the development of parasitic specific immunity later in life," adds ISGlobal researcher.