White Blood Cells and Malaria


Does malaria cause loss of white blood cells / antibodies?


The parasites that cause malaria reproduce in the human host by infecting red blood cells, then multiplying asexually and bursting out into the bloodstream, ready to infect more red blood cells.

As such, malaria parasites do not destroy white blood cells. However, patients with malaria may display reduced white blood cell counts during blood tests; this is usually thought to be due to relocalization of the white blood cells from the limbs (where blood is usually taken from during these tests) to the spleen and other internal organs also affected by the malaria infection.

As for antibodies, the malaria parasites contain antigens, which are proteins that cause an antibody response in the patient, thus usually resulting in an increase in antibodies during infection, especially if the patient has been exposed to malaria previously.