Pregnant women are at increased malaria risk. The infections are characterized by placental accumulation of infected erythrocytes (IEs) with adverse consequences for mother and baby. Placental IE sequestration in the intervillous space is mediated by variant surface antigens (VSAs) selectively expressed in placental malaria (PM) and specific for chondroitin sulfate A (CSA). In Plasmodium falciparum, these VSA(PM) appear largely synonymous with the P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) family variant VAR2CSA. As rodent malaria parasites do not possess PfEMP1 homologs, the usefulness of experimental mouse PM models remains controversial. However, many features of murine and human PM are similar, including involvement of VSAs analogous to PfEMP1. It thus appears that rodent model studies can further the understanding of VSA-dependent malaria pathogenesis and immunity.
Trends in Parasitology, 2010, Vol 26, Issue 8, p. 412-9
Journal Article; Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't; Review