Females clear asymptomatic malaria infection faster than males, suggest study

A recent study revealed that females are able to clear asymptomatic malaria infections at a faster rate than their male counterparts. The study was published in eLife. The findings, originally posted on the preprint server medRxiv, suggest that biological sex-based differences are an important factor for epidemiologists to consider in the human response to malaria parasites. Malaria remains a significant global health challenge, with infections causing disease symptoms that range from uncomplicated to severe. Additionally, asymptomatic malaria infections are common in places where the disease occurs most often, known as endemic areas. Due to partial immunity, individuals can carry parasites for long periods of time while unaware that they are infected. It is well established that chronic asymptomatic infection with the most common and fatal malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum), can cause morbidity in those infected and contribute to ongoing disease transmission. As these infections represent an important part of the parasite reservoir and are therefore a major obstacle for efforts to eliminate malaria, characterising them is crucial. Understanding the immune response of humans to chronic P. falciparum infection requires frequent follow up of infected individuals, sensitive detection of parasites, and the ability to distinguish 'superinfection' from a persistent infection. Superinfection is common in endemic areas and refers to an individual acquiring a new infection when they are already infected. In their study, Briggs and the team followed a representative group of people living in a malaria-endemic area of eastern Uganda.