The association of intraleucocytic malaria pigment and disease severity in Papua New Guinean children with severe P. falciparum malaria

Elvin Lufele, Laurens Manning, Lina Lorry, Jonathan Warrel, Susan Aipit, Leanne J. Robinson, Moses Laman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Plasmodium falciparum pigment-containing leucocytes (PCLs) are associated with adverse clinical manifestations of severe malaria in African children. However, limited data exist on the association of PCLs in settings outside of Africa. METHODS: Thin films on peripheral blood slides obtained from children ages 6 months-10 y with severe malaria were examined for PCLs. The intraleucocytic pigment data were correlated with clinical phenotypic data such as severe anaemia, metabolic acidosis and coma to determine the association of PCLs with clinical phenotypes of severe malaria and outcome. RESULTS: Of the 169 children with severe P. falciparum malaria confirmed by microscopy, 76% (129/169) had PCLs. Compared with children without PCLs, the presence (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 3.2 [95% confidence interval {CI} 1.5 to 6.9], p≤0.01) and quantity (AOR 1.0 [95% CI 1.0 to 1.1], p=0.04) of pigment-containing monocytes (PCMs) was significantly associated with severe anaemia, while the quantity of both PCMs (AOR 1.0 [95% CI 1.0 to 1.1], p≤0.01) and pigment-containing neutrophils (AOR 1.0 [95% CI 1.0 to 1.1], p=0.01) was significantly associated with metabolic acidosis. Plasma P. falciparum histidine-rich protein-2 level negatively correlated with the platelet count (r=-0.5, p≤0.01) in patients with PCLs and no PCLs. CONCLUSIONS: In Papua New Guinean children with severe P. falciparum malaria, the presence and quantity of PCLs are predictors of disease severity, severe anaemia and metabolic acidosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)797-803
Number of pages7
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023

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