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The blood level of soluble urokinase receptor (suPAR) is increased and associated with a poor clinical or fatal outcome in children with acute malaria. This study hypothesized that the suPAR level would be associated with foetal outcome in maternal malaria. suPAR was measured by ELISA in maternal and cord plasma samples taken during delivery in 253 pregnant Kenyan women stratified according to placental histology: no malaria infection (non-infected), active or active-chronic infection (actively infected) or past-chronic infection (past-infected). Maternal-suPAR was higher in actively infected women (median 3.93 (IQR 2.92-5.29) ng/mL) compared with non-infected (median 2.78 (IQR 1.86-3.87) ng/mL, P = 0.001) and past-infected (median 2.67 (IQR 1.94-3.7) ng/mL, P = 0.012) women. Cord-suPAR was comparable across the groups (median 2.98 (IQR 2.38-3.77) ng/mL). In actively infected women, maternal-suPAR and gestational age were the only independent predictors of birth weight in multivariate linear regression adjusted for maternal-suPAR, HIV-1 infection, age, BMI, haemoglobin, peripheral parasitaemia, parity and gestational age; 1 ng/mL higher maternal-suPAR predicted -56 g (95% CI -100 to -12, P = 0.016) reduced birth weight. Cord-suPAR could not predict birth weight after adjusting for gestational age. Future studies are warranted to investigate whether the maternal suPAR level is increased earlier in pregnancy in women with active placental malaria infection and whether early maternal suPAR measurements can predict birth weight. If so, measurements of maternal suPAR early in pregnancy might then potentially identify women with increased needs for antenatal care and intervention.

Original publication




Journal article


Parasite Immunol

Publication Date





37 - 46


Adult, Animals, Biomarkers, Female, Humans, Infant, Low Birth Weight, Infant, Newborn, Logistic Models, Malaria, Plasmodium, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic, Receptors, Cell Surface, Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator