New study finds malaria could play key role in mother-to-child transmission of HIV in pregnancy

November 17, 2005

Yaoundé, Cameroon (17 November 2005)--Malaria infections boost production of a substance that might significantly increase HIV replication in the placenta. This interaction could explain why mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV in Yaoundé increases following a rainy season, according to new findings presented at this week's Fourth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) Pan-African Malaria Conference.

Laboratory tests have revealed that biological substances known as "proinflammatory cytokines", such as TNF-alpha, which is found in high levels in placentas infected with malaria, could stimulate HIV replication in the placenta.

"Our research highlights the fact that placental malaria, through the placental cytokine network, could play an important role in mother-to-child HIV transmission in utero that has been underestimated so far," said Anfumbom Kfutwah of the Pasteur Center's virology laboratory. (Thursday, 3:10 p.m., Ebony Hall, Parallel Session 26, Presentation 169)

He said scientists have been investigating a possible link between malaria and in utero HIV infections since a study conducted in Yaoundé, Cameroon found that MTCTs peaked three months after the rains peaked. Seasonal rains are known to bring an increase in malaria infections by providing the ideal breeding environment for mosquitoes that carry the disease.

Kfutwah will be discussing a study currently ongoing by scientists at Cameroon's Pasteur Center in collaboration with the Institut Pasteur in Paris, France, on placentas collected from women who were HIV positive and HIV negative, and with and without malaria. This study is investigating the expression of proinflammatory cytokines in relation to both pathogens.

Kfutwah said that further research needs to be done to better understand how the malaria parasite induces the inflammatory response that appears to interfere with the placenta's normal action to protect the fetus from infections.

However, according to Kfutwah, solid evidence of a connection between malaria and risk of fetal infection with HIV could prompt health authorities to consider routinely testing pregnant women in Cameroon and other African countries for both HIV and malaria. Malaria treatment could then be initiated during pregnancy as a way to reduce the risks of infecting the fetus with HIV.

The study by Kfutwah and his colleagues is one of several presentations at the MIM conference that focus on the many challenges arising in a region where co-infections with both HIV, which affects an estimated 29.4 million Africans, and malaria, which sickens 500 million, are unfortunately quite common.

"Each disease by itself is a major problem both for the individuals affected and the health care system," said Andreas Heddini, the MIM Secretariat coordinator. "But the fact that they frequently occur together is a major complicating factor, and we need more research to clarify how the two infections interact and how to best treat co-infection. When you look at the many discussions at MIM, it's clear that African scientists are aware that we cannot look at HIV and malaria in isolation. We must investigate any interactions between what are arguably the two biggest health threats facing the continent today."

Below are descriptions of other MIM presentations investigating issues related to HIV and malaria co-infection:
To provide coordinated international approach to fighting malaria, the Roll Back Malaria Partnership (RBM) ( was launched in 1998 by the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank. The Partnership now brings together governments of countries affected by malaria, their bilateral and multilateral development partners, the private sector, non-governmental and community-based organizations, foundations, and research and academic institutions around the common goal of halving the global burden of malaria by 2010. World Malaria Report 2005

The Multilateral Initiative on Malaria (MIM) (, launched in Dakar, Senegal in 1997, is an international alliance of organizations and individuals seeking to maximize the impact of scientific research against malaria in Africa to ensure that research findings yield practical health benefits. The MIM Secretariat was previously hosted for 3-years terms by the Wellcome Trust (UK) and the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health (US). In 2003, the Secretariat moved to Stockholm, Sweden, where it is hosted by the Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University.

For further information, please contact:

MIM, Wilfred Mbacham, T +237 757 91 80,

Massive Effort London UK, Louis Da Gama, T +44 208 357 7413, M +44 7990 810642, Massive Effort South Africa, Vanessa Peter, T +27 82 327 6286,

Europe, Scandinavia and Asia
Good Company, Maria Dalayman T +46-8-545 805 54, M +46 70 685 40 05,

France and Belgium
Massive Effort Paris, Patrick Bertrand, T+33 6 60 04 04 42,

UK Peter Robbs Consultants Ltd, Cathy Bartley, T +44 (0) 207 635 1593, M +44 (0)79 58 56 16 71,

Burness Communications, Ellen Wilson, T +1 301 652 1558, ext 108, M +1 301 922 4969,

or visit our pressroom at
For online registration please visit

You can also find information about malaria on the following links: The PATH Malaria Vaccine Initiative:, Medicines for Malaria Venture: and Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR) World Health Organization:

The conference organizers and the Kaiser Family Foundation, through its online news summary and webcasting service,, are working together to bring online coverage of the conference to those unable to attend.'s comprehensive online coverage will include webcasts and transcripts of each day's plenary sessions and selected other sessions, text summaries of select sessions, and interviews with newsmakers. Slide presentations from select sessions will also be available. Access the coverage at


Related Malaria Articles from Brightsurf:

Clocking in with malaria parasites
Discovery of a malaria parasite's internal clock could lead to new treatment strategies.

Breakthrough in malaria research
An international scientific consortium led by the cell biologists Volker Heussler from the University of Bern and Oliver Billker from the UmeƄ University in Sweden has for the first time systematically investigated the genome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium throughout its life cycle in a large-scale experiment.

Scientists close in on malaria vaccine
Scientists have taken another big step forward towards developing a vaccine that's effective against the most severe forms of malaria.

New tool in fight against malaria
Modifying a class of molecules originally developed to treat the skin disease psoriasis could lead to a new malaria drug that is effective against malaria parasites resistant to currently available drugs.

Malaria expert warns of need for malaria drug to treat severe cases in US
The US each year sees more than 1,500 cases of malaria, and currently there is limited access to an intravenously administered (IV) drug needed for the more serious cases.

Monkey malaria breakthrough offers cure for relapsing malaria
A breakthrough in monkey malaria research by two University of Otago scientists could help scientists diagnose and treat a relapsing form of human malaria.

Getting to zero malaria cases in zanzibar
New research led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, Ifakara Health Institute and the Zanzibar Malaria Elimination Program suggests that a better understanding of human behavior at night -- when malaria mosquitoes are biting -- could be key to preventing lingering cases.

Widely used malaria treatment to prevent malaria in pregnant women
A global team of researchers, led by a research team at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), are calling for a review of drug-based strategies used to prevent malaria infections in pregnant women, in areas where there is widespread resistance to existing antimalarial medicines.

Protection against Malaria: A matter of balance
A balanced production of pro and anti-inflammatory cytokines at two years of age protects against clinical malaria in early childhood, according to a study led by ISGlobal, an institution supported by ''la Caixa'' Foundation.

The math of malaria
A new mathematical model for malaria shows how competition between parasite strains within a human host reduces the odds of drug resistance developing in a high-transmission setting.

Read More: Malaria News and Malaria Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to