Plasmodium falciparum malaria increases plasma levels of the cytokine Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 ligand (Flt3L), a haematopoietic factor associated with dendritic cell (DC) expansion. It is unknown if the zoonotic parasite Plasmodium knowlesi impacts Flt3L or DC in human malaria. This study investigated circulating DC and Flt3L associations in adult malaria and in submicroscopic experimental infection.
Plasmodium falciparum causes the majority of malaria cases worldwide and children in sub-Saharan Africa are the most vulnerable group affected. Non-sterile clinical immunity that protects from symptoms develops slowly and is relatively short-lived. Moreover, current malaria vaccine candidates fail to induce durable high-level protection in endemic settings, possibly due to the immunomodulatory effects of the malaria parasite itself. Because dendritic cells play a crucial role in initiating immune responses, the aim of this study was to better understand the impact of cumulative malaria exposure as well as concurrent P. falciparum infection on dendritic cell phenotype and function.