Moxon, C.A., et al. Parasite histones mediate 1 leak and coagulopathy in cerebral malaria. BioRxiv. 563551. 28/2/2019.
Coagulopathy and leak, specific to the brain vasculature, are central pathogenetic components of cerebral malaria (CM). It is unclear how the parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, triggers these processes. Extracellular histones, released from damaged host cells, bind to cell membranes and cause coagulation activation, platelet aggregation and vascular leak in diverse critical illnesses. In CM patients with P. falciparum, serum histones correlate with fibrin formation, thrombocytopenia, and endothelial activation and predict brain swelling on magnetic resonance imaging and fatal outcome. Post-mortem, histones bind to the luminal vascular surface, co-localizing with P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IE), and with thrombosis and leak. Purified P. falciparum histones cause toxicity and barrier disruption in cultured human brain microvascular endothelial cells, as does serum from CM patients, reversed by anti-histone antibodies and non-anticoagulant heparin. These data implicate parasite histones as a key trigger of fatal brain swelling in CM. Neutralizing histones with agents such as non-anticoagulant heparin warrant exploration to prevent brain swelling and improve outcome.