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Lymphocyte with red blood cells. Credit: University of Edinburgh

Study Group plans to identify what determines white blood cell count during malaria infection

13 March 2019

A White Blood Cell (WBC) Count in Malaria Study group aims to identify what determines WBC count during baseline and acute phase of malaria infection.

White Blood Cells (WBC) play a crucial role in the body’s ability to fight infection. WBC count in the body can vary during the different stages of malaria infection. Leucopenia (reduction in WBCs) is common during acute malaria, whereas leucocytosis (increase in WBCs) can occur during severe malaria. Alterations in WBC count have been associated with severity of infection, concurrent infections and response to treatments. The factors contributing to WBC count are not well known and, as well as infection stage, may also be affected by the patient population in question.

To determine the extent of infection, malaria parasite density in the body is estimated. This is done by counting the number of asexual parasites against a set number of WBCs. A standard WBC count is assumed if direct WBC measurement is not possible. Understanding how WBC varies at baseline and throughout the course of recovery is therefore vital to making a correct diagnosis.  

The group aims to characterise what the determinants of WBC count are during baseline and acute phase of the infection and how WBC count can therefore affect estimates of parasite clearance. Based on this, they will investigate what the most appropriate WBC value is to estimate parasitaemia if direct measurement is not possible.

Being able to profile WBC count more accurately will be valuable in helping to identify early at risk patients.

If you are interested to follow the progress of this Study Group, please visit the White Blood Cell Count in Malaria Study Group.

Email your questions to Kasia Stepniewska kasia [dot] stepniewska [at] wwarn [dot] org