Elevated levels of soluble TNF receptors 1 and 2 correlate with Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia in pregnant women: potential markers for malaria-associated inflammation

J Immunol. 2010 Dec 1;185(11):7115-22. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1002293. Epub 2010 Oct 27.


Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IEs) sequester in the intervillous space (IVS) of the placenta causing placental malaria (PM), a condition that increases a woman's chances of having a low-birth-weight baby. Because IEs sequester, they frequently are not observed in peripheral blood smears, resulting in women with PM being misdiagnosed and thus not treated. Because sequestered IEs induce inflammation in the IVS, detection of inflammatory mediators in the peripheral blood may provide an approach for diagnosing PM. Two counterregulatory molecules, TNF-αR (TNFR) 1 and TNFR2, modulate the pathological effects of TNF-α. Levels of these soluble TNFRs (sTNFRs) are reported to be elevated in children with severe malaria, but it is unclear if they are increased in the peripheral blood of PM-positive women with asymptomatic infections. In this study, sTNFR levels were measured throughout the course of pregnancy, as well as at delivery, in women with asymptomatic infections and those who remained uninfected. Results showed that both sTNFRs were significantly increased in the peripheral blood of women with asymptomatic malaria (p < 0.0001) and were positively correlated with parasitemia (p < 0.0001 for sTNFR1 and p = 0.0046 for sTNFR2). Importantly, levels of sTNFR2 were elevated in the peripheral blood of women who were PM-positive but peripheral blood-smear negative (p = 0.0017). Additionally, sTNFR2 levels were elevated in the blood of malaria-positive women who delivered low-birth-weight babies. In vitro studies demonstrated that syncytiotrophoblasts were not a major source of sTNFR. These data suggest that sTNFR2 may be a valuable biomarker for detection of malaria-associated inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight / immunology
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Inflammation Mediators / blood*
  • Inflammation Mediators / physiology
  • Malaria / immunology*
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Malaria / pathology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / immunology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / parasitology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I / blood
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type II / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type II / blood
  • Up-Regulation / immunology


  • Biomarkers
  • Inflammation Mediators
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type I
  • Receptors, Tumor Necrosis Factor, Type II
  • TNFRSF1A protein, human
  • TNFRSF1B protein, human