Malawi Medical Journal

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Role of Cytokines in Trypanosoma brucei-Induced Anaemia: A Review of the Literature

J Musaya, E Matovu, M Nyirenda, J Chisi


Background: Anaemia is an important complication of trypanosomiasis. The mechanisms through which trypanosomal infection leads to anaemia are poorly defined. A number of studies have implicated inflammatory cytokines, but these data are limited and inconsistent. In this article, we reviewed the published literature on cytokines associated with Trypanosoma brucei infections and their role in the immunopathology leading to anaemia.

Methodology: Articles were searched in PubMed through screening of titles and abstracts with no limitation on date of publishing and study design. Articles in English were searched using keywords “African trypanosomiasis”, “sleeping sickness”, “Trypanosoma brucei”, in all possible combinations with “anaemia” and/or “cytokines”.

Results: Twelve articles examining cytokines and their role in trypanosomeinduced anaemia were identified out of 1095 originally retrieved from PubMed. None of the articles identified were from human-based studies. A total of eight cytokines were implicated, with four cytokines (IFN-γ, IL-10, TNF-α, IL-12) showing an association with anaemia. These articles reported that mice lacking TNF-α were able to control anaemia, and that IFN-γ was linked to severe anaemia given its capacity to suppress erythropoiesis, while IL-10 was shown to regulate IFN-γ and TNF-α, providing a balance that was associated with severity of anaemia. IFN-γ and TNF-α have also been reported to work in concert with other factors such as nitric oxide and iron in order to induce anaemia.

Conclusion: IFN-γ, IL-10, and TNF-α were the three major cytokines identified to beheavily involved in anaemia caused by Trypanosoma brucei infection. The anti-inflammatory cytokine, IL-10, was shown to counter the effects of proinflammatory cytokines in order to balance the severity of anaemia. The mechanism of anaemia is multifactorial and therefore requires further, more elaborate research. Data from human subjects would also shed more light.
AJOL African Journals Online