Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Two-way Infection
22 June 2015

Two-way Infection

Malaria, caused by the microorganism Plasmodium, kills an estimated half-a-million annually, mostly young children living in Africa. There are many things that can worsen malarial disease, such as the person’s health and genetic make-up, and co-infections with other pathogens are another big contributor. By the age of six months, most children living in Sub-Saharan Africa have been in contact with Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) – a type of gammaherpesvirus. Researchers have looked into whether having had this infection could be a risk factor for Plasmodium infection. Using a mouse model, they found that having gammaherpesvirus and Plasmodium infection together weakens the immune system’s ability to make an anti-malaria response. In the spleen of mice given both pathogens (pictured right), T cells (in red) that help make antibody-producing B cells (in blue and green) are reduced in number compared to spleens with either no, or a single infection (first three images left to right).

Written by Katie Panteli

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