A longitudinal study of plasma BAFF levels in mothers and their infants in Uganda, and correlations with subsets of B cells

Caroline Rönnberg, Allan Lugaajju, Anna Nyman, Ulf Hammar, Matteo Bottai, Maximilian Julius Lautenbach, Christopher Sundling, Fred Kironde, Kristina E.M. Persson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Malaria is a potentially life-threatening disease with approximately half of the world’s population at risk. Young children and pregnant women are hit hardest by the disease. B cells and antibodies are part of an adaptive immune response protecting individuals continuously exposed to the parasite. An infection with Plasmodium falciparum can cause dysregulation of B cell homeostasis, while antibodies are known to be key in controlling symptoms and parasitemia. BAFF is an instrumental cytokine for the development and maintenance of B cells. Pregnancy alters the immune status and renders previously clinically immune women at risk of severe malaria, potentially due to altered B cell responses associated with changes in BAFF levels. In this prospective study, we investigated the levels of BAFF in a malaria-endemic area in mothers and their infants from birth up to 9 months. We found that BAFF-levels are significantly higher in infants than in mothers. BAFF is highest in cord blood and then drops rapidly, but remains significantly higher in infants compared to mothers even at 9 months of age. We further correlated BAFF levels to P. falciparum-specific antibody levels and B cell frequencies and found a negative correlation between BAFF and both P. falciparum-specific and total proportions of IgG+ memory B cells, as well as CD27 memory B cells, indicating that exposure to both malaria and other diseases affect the development of B-cell memory and that BAFF plays a part in this. In conclusion, we have provided new information on how natural immunity against malaria is formed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0245431
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume16
Issue number1 January
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Jan

Bibliographical note

2021 Rönnberg et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Immunology in the medical area

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