Association between Inflammatory Cytokine Levels and Thrombocytopenia during Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax; Infections in South-Western Coastal Region of India.

11 Apr 2019
Punnath K, Dayanand KK, Chandrashekar VN, Achur RN, Kakkilaya SB, Ghosh SK, Kumari SN, Gowda DC


Thrombocytopenia is a most commonly observed complication during malaria infections. Inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1, IL-6, and IL-10 have been documented in malaria induced thrombocytopaenia. This study was aimed to understand the possible relationship between inflammatory cytokines across varying degrees of thrombocytopenia during  P. vivax, P. falciparum, and mixed infections.


A hospital-based cross sectional study was conducted at District Wenlock Hospital in Mangaluru, a city situated along the south-western coastal region of Arabian Sea in India. In this study, blood samples from 627 malaria patients were analyzed for infected parasite species, clinical conditions, platelet levels, and key cytokines that are produced in response to infection; samples from 176 uninfected healthy individuals were used as controls.


The results of our study showed a high prevalence of malarial thrombocytopenia (platelets <150 ×10/l) in this endemic settings. About 62.7% patients had mild-to-moderate levels of thrombocytopenia and 16% patients had severe thrombocytopenia (platelets <50 × 10/l). Upon comparison of cytokines across varying degrees of thrombocytopenia, irrespective of infecting species, the levels of TNF- and IL-10 were significantly higher during thrombocytopenia, whereas IL-6 levels were considerably lower in severe thrombocytopenia patients suffering from or infections. The severe clinical complications observed in patients with malarial thrombocytopenia included severe anemia (17.5%), acute renal failure (12.7%), jaundice (27.0%), metabolic acidosis (36.5%), spontaneous bleeding (3.2%), hypoglycemia (25.4%), hyperparasitemia (4.8%), acute respiratory distress syndrome (1.6%), pulmonary edema (19.0%), and cerebral malaria (1.6%) in various combinations.


Overall, the results of our study suggest that inflammatory cytokines influence the transformation of mild forms of thrombocytopenia into severe forms during malarial infections. Further studies are needed to understand the association of inflammatory cytokine responses with severe malaria complications and thrombocytopenia.