Drug treatment of malaria infections can reduce levels of protection transferred to offspring via maternal immunity

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Maternally transferred immunity can have a fundamental effect on the ability of offspring to deal with infection. However, levels of antibodies in adults can vary both quantitatively and qualitatively between individuals and during the course of infection. How infection dynamics and their modification by drug treatment might affect the protection transferred to offspring remains poorly understood. Using the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium chabaudi, we demonstrate that curing dams part way through infection prior to pregnancy can alter their immune response, with major consequences for offspring health and survival. In untreated maternal infections, maternally transferred protection suppressed parasitaemia and reduced pup mortality by 75 per cent compared with pups from naïve dams. However, when dams were treated with anti-malarial drugs, pups received fewer maternal antibodies, parasitaemia was only marginally suppressed, and mortality risk was 25 per cent higher than for pups from dams with full infections. We observed the same qualitative patterns across three different host strains and two parasite genotypes. This study reveals the role that within-host infection dynamics play in the fitness consequences of maternally transferred immunity. Furthermore, it highlights a potential trade-off between the health of mothers and offspring suggesting that anti-parasite treatment may significantly affect the outcome of infection in newborns.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2487-2496
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences
Issue number1737
Early online date22 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2012

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • passive immunity
  • neonatal immunology
  • immunoglobulins
  • anti-malarial drugs
  • Plasmodium chabaudi
  • maternal effects


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