Plasmodium coatneyi in the rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta) as a model of malaria in pregnancy

Billie B. Davison, Frank B. Cogswell, Gary B. Baskin, Katherine P. Falkenstein, Elizabeth W. Henson, Alice F Tarantal, Donald J. Krogstad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Pregnant women with Plasmodium falciparum infection are at increased risk for complications such as anemia and cerebral malaria. In addition, the infants of these women suffer intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), low birth weight (LBW), congenital infection, and high infant mortality. Although much has been learned from studies of malaria during human pregnancy, progress has been limited by the lack of a suitable animal model. Nonhuman primates are of particular interest because, other than the armadillo, they are the only animals with a discoidal, villous, hemochorial placenta like that of humans. We have established a model of malaria during human pregnancy by inoculating pregnant rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) with Plasmodium coatneyi (a sequestering parasite) during the first trimester. In our initial experiment, four monkeys were inoculated with a fresh inoculum containing 108 viable parasites from an infected donor monkey. All four monkeys became parasitemic seven days postinoculation (PI) and three monkeys aborted 7-10 days PI coincident with high peak parasitemias (41,088-374,325 parasites/mm3). Although abortion is one of the outcomes observed in Plasmodium-infected women, the intent of this study was to examine the effects of Plasmodium infection throughout gestation. Since the rapid onset of high parasitemia may have been responsible for the abortions, a decision was made to reduce the size of the effective inoculum. Six additional pregnant monkeys were inoculated with a frozen isolate taken from the same donor containing 106 parasites. These six animals became parasitemic by 14 days PI and, along with monkey E412, carried their infants to term. These seven infants weighed significantly less at term than the infants of uninfected mothers (P = 0.0355). Symmetrical IUGR was detected by ultrasound in one fetus with an LBW of 334 g. Another LBW infant (300 g) had asymmetrical growth retardation, which has been associated with uteroplacental insufficiency and was consistent with the lower placental weights found in infected dams compared with controls (P = 0.0455). The infant with symmetric IUGR died at five days of age, while the other is alive but congenitally infected. The IUGR, LBW, congenital infection, postnatal infant mortality, and early abortions observed in these animals suggest that P. coatneyi in pregnant rhesus monkeys is a valid model of malaria in human pregnancy. This model should provide the opportunity to study questions about malaria in pregnancy that have been difficult to study in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-201
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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