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Malaria is still a significant public health burden in the tropics. Infection with malaria causing parasites results in a wide range of clinical disease presentations, from severe to uncomplicated or mild, and in the poorly understood asymptomatic infections. The complexity of asymptomatic infections is due to the intricate interplay between factors derived from the human host, parasite, and environment. Asymptomatic infections often go undetected and provide a silent natural reservoir that sustains malaria transmission. This creates a major obstacle for malaria control and elimination efforts. Numerous studies have tried to characterize asymptomatic infections, unanimously revealing that host immunity is the underlying factor in the maintenance of these infections and in the risk of developing febrile malaria infections. An in-depth understanding of how host immunity and parasite factors interact to cause malaria disease tolerance is thus required. This review primarily focuses on understanding anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory responses to asymptomatic infections in malaria endemic areas, to present the view that it is potentially the shift in host immunity toward an anti-inflammatory profile that maintains asymptomatic infections after multiple exposures to malaria. Conversely, symptomatic infections are skewed toward a pro-inflammatory immune profile. Moreover, we propose that these infections can be better interrogated using next generation sequencing technologies, in particular RNA sequencing (RNA-seq), to investigate the immune system using the transcriptome sampled during a clearly defined asymptomatic infection.

Original publication





Frontiers in immunology

Publication Date





KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, CGMRC, Kilifi, Kenya.


Humans, Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria, Falciparum, Gene Expression Profiling, Sequence Analysis, RNA, Asymptomatic Infections, Transcriptome