Acute haemolysis associated with clinical episodes of high-level Plasmodium falciparum parasitaemia was studied in 20 children from an holoendemic area (coastal Tanzania). The change in blood haemoglobin (Hb) concentration ranged from -46 to g/L during the 72-h observation period and was linearly related to maximum parasitaemia. Balance studies between loss of blood Hb, increase in plasma Hb and appearance of Hb in the urine indicated that extravascular clearance of red cells was the predominant mode of erythrocyte clearance. Most subjects, however, showed minor signs of intravascular haemolysis. The plasma Hb was << 1% of blood Hb and haemoglobinuria was detected in 14/20 children but the excretion of Hb in urine was < 0.5% of total Hb loss. Haemoglobinuria was, however, a marker of severe haemolysis, since the maximum blood Hb loss in children without haemoglobinuria was 10 g/L. Erythrocyte-bound opsonins known to induce erythrophagocytosis, i.e., complement C3c fragments and autologous IgG, were increased in all patients. In the patients with major haemolysis, the changes correlated to the haemolysis over time. Hence, a similar mechanism for predominantly extravascular erythrocyte clearance may be operative in acute malarial anaemia, normal erythrocyte senescence and other forms of acute haemolysis.
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