During pregnancy, Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IE) sequester in the placenta where they induce pathology and increase the risk of low-birth-weight (LBW) babies. The innate immune mediator, mannose-binding lectin (MBL), enhances phagocytosis of pathogens. Since MBL is reported to bind to IE, we hypothesized that it might aid in clearance of IE from the placenta, thereby reducing the risk of LBW babies. To test this hypothesis, molecular genotyping was used to detect polymorphisms at codon 57 (A/C) in exon 1 of MBL2 in 401 pregnant Cameroonian women, with or without placental malaria, who had LBW and normal-weight babies. Polymorphisms in the promoter region at positions −550 (H/L), −221 (X/Y), and +4 (P/Q) were also determined, and plasma MBL levels were measured during pregnancy and at delivery. The expected correlation between genotype and plasma MBL levels was confirmed. However, asymptomatic infections were not associated with an increase in MBL levels in the peripheral blood, and MBL levels were similar in the placental and cord blood of women with or without placental malaria at delivery. There was no evidence that MBL levels at delivery were associated with malaria-related poor pregnancy outcomes. Women with the LXPA haplotype, however, were more likely to have LBW babies, but the risk was not related to malaria. These results do not support the hypothesis that MBL aids in the clearance of parasites from the placenta but suggest that Cameroonian women with LXPA are at risk of having LBW babies due to other causes
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