RESULTS: Anti-ICAM-1 and CD36 monoclonal antibodies were able to inhibit and reverse P. falciparum binding of lab and recently adapted patient isolates in vitro. However, reversal of binding was incomplete and varied in its efficiency between parasite isolates.
CONCLUSIONS: The results show that, as a proof of concept, disturbing existing ligand-receptor interactions is possible and could have potential therapeutic value for severe malaria. The variation seen in the degree of reversing existing binding with different parasite isolates and the incomplete nature of reversal, despite the use of high affinity inhibitors, suggest that anti-adhesion approaches as adjunct therapies for severe malaria may not be effective, and the focus may need to be on inhibitory approaches such as vaccines.
METHODS: Thick and thin blood films were made prior to administration of anti-malarial treatment in patients who were subsequently confirmed as having single species knowlesi infections by PCR assays. Giemsa-stained blood films, prepared from 10 randomly selected patients with a parasitaemia ranging from 610 to 236,000 parasites per microl blood, were examined.
RESULTS: The P. knowlesi infection was highly synchronous in only one patient, where 97% of the parasites were at the late trophozoite stage. Early, late and mature trophozoites and schizonts were observed in films from all patients except three; where schizonts and early trophozoites were absent in two and one patient, respectively. Gametocytes were observed in four patients, comprising only between 1.2 to 2.8% of infected erythrocytes. The early trophozoites of P. knowlesi morphologically resemble those of P. falciparum. The late and mature trophozoites, schizonts and gametocytes appear very similar to those of P. malariae. Careful examinations revealed that some minor morphological differences existed between P. knowlesi and P. malariae. These include trophozoites of knowlesi with double chromatin dots and at times with two or three parasites per erythrocyte and mature schizonts of P. knowlesi having 16 merozoites, compared with 12 for P. malariae.
CONCLUSION: Plasmodium knowlesi infections in humans are not highly synchronous. The morphological resemblance of early trophozoites of P. knowlesi to P. falciparum and later erythrocytic stages to P. malariae makes it extremely difficult to identify P. knowlesi infections by microscopy alone.