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01.12.2012 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

Malaria Journal 1/2012

B-cell activity in children with malaria

Malaria Journal > Ausgabe 1/2012
Jackson C Korir, Japhet K Magambo, Joseph K Mwatha, John N Waitumbi
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1475-2875-11-66) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors' contributions

JCK was a graduate student in Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Nairobi, Kenya. He conducted all the experiments, helped in data analysis and drafted the manuscript. Both JKM were university supervisors to JCK and assisted in study design and edited the manuscript. JNW designed the study, supervised the work and helped in drafting the final manuscript. All authors have read and approved the final manuscript.



Recent studies implicate deficiency of red blood cell (RBC) complement regulatory proteins (CR1 and CD55) in the pathogenesis of malarial anaemia. This study explored the involvement of B cell CD21, which has an analogous role to RBC CR1.


In a case control study conducted in Kisumu District hospital, western Kenya, children with severe malaria anaemia (SMA) and those with uncomplicated malaria (UM) were assessed by flow cytometry for B cells (CD20+) numbers, expression levels of CD21 and deposition of C3dg and by ELISA for soluble CD21 (sCD21). Paired t tests were used to determine statistical significance at a = 0.05.


Children with SMA had significantly higher lymphocyte count (9,627.7 ± 8786.1 SD vs. 5,507 ± 2436 SD, P = 0.04 in the UM group) and the computed geometric mean of mature B-cell numbers based on the absolute lymphocyte count was significantly higher for SMA group: 1,823 (1,126 to 2,982, 95% CI) and 826.6 (564 to 1,220, 95% CI)] for UM group (P = 0.003). SMA group also had a higher percentage of CD20+ B cells (26.8 ± 9.7SD vs 20.9 ± 9.01 SD in the UM) (P = 0.03), indicating considerable polyclonal B-cell activation. The CD21 median flourescence intensity was lower in the SMA (246.4 ± 87.4 SD vs 369 ± 137.7 SD) (P < 0.0001), probably due to complement mediated shaving of CD21 by fixed tissue macrophages. The CD20+ B cells of SMAs had higher levels of the complement split product C3dg (18.35 ± 10 SD vs 11.5 ± 6.8 S.D), (P = 0.0002), confirming possible role of complement in CD21 removal. Unexpectedly, the SMAs had lower levels of sCD21 (226.5 ± 131.5 SD vs 341.4 ± 137.3 SD in the UM) (P < 0.0001), indicating that the shaved CD21 is not released to peripheral circulation.


These results implicate B-cell in pathophysiology of severe malaria that involves increased B-cell proliferation, increased complement deposition and subsequent loss of membrane-bound CD21. The loss of CD21 is not by the classical enzmatic cleavage.
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