Background: There is an increase of serum levels of IgE during Plasmodium falciparum infections in individuals living in endemic areas. These IgEs either protect against malaria or increase malaria pathogenesis. To get an insight into the exact role played by IgE in the outcome of P. falciparum infection, total IgE levels and functional anti-parasite IgE response were studied in children and adults, from two different endemic areas Gabon and India, exhibiting either uncomplicated malaria, severe non cerebral malaria or cerebral malaria, in comparison with control individuals.
Methodology and results: Blood samples were collected from controls and P. falciparum-infected patients before treatment on the day of hospitalization (day 0) in India and, in addition, on days 7 and 30 after treatment in Gabon. Total IgE levels were determined by ELISA and functional P. falciparum-specific IgE were estimated using a mast cell line RBL-2H3 transfected with a human Fcepsilon RI alpha-chain that triggers degranulation upon human IgE cross-linking. Mann Whitney and Kruskall Wallis tests were used to compare groups and the Spearman test was used for correlations. Total IgE levels were confirmed to increase upon infection and differ with level of transmission and age but were not directly related to the disease phenotype. All studied groups exhibited functional parasite-specific IgEs able to induce mast cell degranulation in vitro in the presence of P. falciparum antigens. Plasma IgE levels correlated with those of IL-10 in uncomplicated malaria patients from Gabon. In Indian patients, plasma IFN-gamma , TNF and IL-10 levels were significantly correlated with IgE concentrations in all groups.
Conclusion: Circulating levels of total IgE do not appear to correlate with protection or pathology, or with anti-inflammatory cytokine pattern bias during malaria. On the contrary, the P. falciparum-specific IgE response seems to contribute to the control of parasites, since functional activity was higher in asymptomatic and uncomplicated malaria patients than in severe or cerebral malaria groups.