Cellular aging dynamics after acute malaria infection: A 12-month longitudinal study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Accelerated cellular aging and reduced lifespan have recently been shown in birds chronically infected with malaria parasites. Whether malaria infection also affects cellular aging in humans has not been reported. Here, we assessed the effect of a single acute Plasmodium falciparum malaria infection on cellular aging dynamics in travelers prospectively followed over one year in Sweden. DNA and RNA were extracted from venous blood collected at the time of admission and repeatedly up to one year. Telomere length was measured using real-time quantitative PCR, while telomerase activity and CDKN2A expression were measured by reverse transcriptase (RT)-qPCR. Our results show that acute malaria infection affects cellular aging as reflected by elevated levels of CDKN2A expression, lower telomerase activity, and substantial telomere shortening during the first three months postinfection. After that CDKN2A expression declined, telomerase activity increased and telomere length was gradually restored over one year, reflecting that cellular aging was reversed. These findings demonstrate that malaria infection affects cellular aging and the underlying cellular mechanism by which pathogens can affect host cellular aging and longevity need to be elucidated. Our results urge the need to investigate whether repeated malaria infections have more pronounced and long-lasting effects on cellular aging and lifespan (similarly to what was observed in birds) in populations living in malaria endemic areas.


  • Muhammad Asghar
  • Victor Yman
  • Manijeh Vafa Homann
  • Klara Sondén
  • Ulf Hammar
  • Dennis Hasselquist
  • Anna Färnert
External organisations
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Karolinska University Hospital
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Cell and Molecular Biology


  • CDKN2A, Cellular aging, Malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, Telomerase, Telomeres
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e12702
JournalAging Cell
Issue number1
Early online date2017 Nov 16
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb
Publication categoryResearch