The deformability of red blood cells parasitized by Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax

J Infect Dis. 2004 Jan 15;189(2):190-4. doi: 10.1086/380468. Epub 2004 Jan 5.


Red blood cells (RBCs) must deform considerably during their multiple passages through the microvasculature and the sinusoids of the spleen. RBCs infected with Plasmodium falciparum (Pf-IRBCs) become increasingly rigid as they mature but avoid splenic clearance by sequestering in venules and capillaries. In contrast, RBCs infected with P. vivax (Pv-IRBCs) do not sequester. We compared the effects of P. vivax and P. falciparum infection on RBC deformability in a laminar shear flow system. Pf-IRBCs became more rigid as the parasite matured, but equivalent maturation of Pv-IRBCs resulted in a doubling of flexibility. Coincidentally, the IRBC surface area increased from 56.7+/-1.3 microm2 to 74.7+/-0.6 microm2 to 90.9+/-1.1 microm2 in ring-, trophozoite-, and schizont-stage Pv-IRBCs, respectively, whereas Pf-IRBCs did not increase in size. P. vivax increases the deformability of IRBCs and thereby avoids splenic entrapment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Erythrocyte Deformability*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Humans
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity*
  • Plasmodium vivax / pathogenicity*