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Quantifying the removal of red blood cells in Macaca mulatta during a Plasmodium coatneyi infection
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Details:
  • Pubmed ID:
    27520455
  • Pubmed Central ID:
    PMC4983012
  • Description:
    Background

    Malaria is the most deadly parasitic disease in humans globally, and the long-time coexistence with malaria has left indelible marks in the human genome that are the causes of a variety of genetic disorders. Although anaemia is a common clinical complication of malaria, the root causes and mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis of malarial anaemia are unclear and difficult to study in humans. Non-human primate (NHP) model systems enable the mechanistic study and quantification of underlying causative factors of malarial anaemia, and particularly the onset of severe anaemia.

    Methods

    Data were obtained in the course of Plasmodium coatneyi infections of malaria-naïve and semi-immune rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta), whose red blood cells (RBCs) were labelled in situ with biotin at the time the infections were initiated. The data were used for a survival analysis that permitted, for the first time, an accurate estimation of the lifespan of erythrocytes in macaques. The data furthermore formed the basis for the development and parameterization of a recursive dynamic model of erythrocyte turnover, which was used for the quantification of RBC production and removal in each macaque.

    Results

    The computational analysis demonstrated that the lifespan of erythrocytes in macaques is 98 ± 21 days. The model also unambiguously showed that death due to senescence and parasitaemia is not sufficient to account for the extent of infection-induced anaemia. Specifically, the model permits, for the first time, the quantification of the different causes of RBC death, namely, normal senescence, age-independent random loss, parasitization, and bystander effects in uninfected cells. Such a dissection of the overall RBC removal process is hardly possible with experimental means alone. In the infected malaria-naïve macaques, death of erythrocytes by normal physiological senescence processes accounts for 20 % and parasitization for only 4 %, whereas bystander effects are associated with an astonishing 76 % of total RBC losses. Model-based comparisons of alternative mechanisms involved in the bystander effect revealed that most of the losses are likely due to a process of removing uninfected RBCs of all age classes and only minimally due to an increased rate of senescence of the uninfected RBCs.

    Conclusions

    A new malaria blood-stage model was developed for the analysis of data characterizing P. coatneyi infections of M. mulatta. The model used a discrete and recursive framework with age-structure that allowed the quantification of the most significant pathophysiological processes of RBC removal. The computational results revealed that the malarial anaemia caused by this parasite is mostly due to a loss of uninfected RBCs by an age-independent process. The biological identity and complete mechanism of this process is not fully understood and requires further investigation.

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