Antagonistic effects of <i>Plasmodium</i>-helminth co-infections on malaria pathology in different population groups in Côte d’Ivoire

by Eveline Hürlimann, Clarisse A. Houngbedji, Richard B. Yapi, Prisca B. N’Dri, Kigbafori D. Silué, Mamadou Ouattara, Jürg Utzinger, Eliézer K. N’Goran, Giovanna Raso

Introduction

Plasmodium spp. and helminths are co-endemic in many parts of the tropics; hence, co-infection is a common phenomenon. Interactions between Plasmodium and helminth infections may alter the host’s immune response and susceptibility and thus impact on morbidity. There is little information on the direction and magnitude of such interactions and results are conflicting. This study aimed at shedding new light on the potential interactions of Plasmodium and helminth co-infections on anemia and splenomegaly in different population groups in Côte d’Ivoire.

Methodology

Parasitologic and clinical data were obtained from four cross-sectional community-based studies and a national school-based survey conducted between 2011 and 2013 in Côte d’Ivoire. Six scenarios of co-infection pairs defined as Plasmodium infection or high parasitemia, combined with one of three common helminth infections (i.e., Schistosoma mansoni, S. haematobium, and hookworm) served for analysis. Adjusted logistic regression models were built for each scenario and interaction measures on additive scale calculated according to Rothman, while an interaction term in the model served as multiplicative scale measure.

Principal findings

All identified significant interactions were of antagonistic nature but varied in magnitude and species combination. In study participants aged 5–18 years from community-based studies, Plasmodium-hookworm co-infection showed an antagonistic interaction on additive scale on splenomegaly, while PlasmodiumSchistosoma co-infection scenarios showed protective effects on multiplicative scale for anemia and splenomegaly in participants aged 5–16 years from a school-based study.

Conclusions/Significance

No exacerbation from co-infection with Plasmodium and helminths was observed, neither in participants aged 5–18 years nor in adults from the community-based studies. Future studies should unravel underlying mechanisms of the observed interactions, as this knowledge might help shaping control efforts against these diseases of poverty.

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