mBio 2022;: e0222222 -

Biomarkers of Intestinal Injury and Dysfunction: Adding New Possibilities to Current Methods for Risk Stratification of Children with Malaria Disease.

Balanza N, López-Varela E, Baro B, Bassat Q
Malaria remains, in 2022, a major cause of pediatric preventable mortality, with its major burden disproportionately circumscribed to sub-Saharan African countries. Although only ~1 to 2% of malaria cases can be considered severe and potentially life threatening, it is often challenging to identify them so as to prioritize adequate health care and resources. In a recent investigation, M. L. Sarangam, R. Namazzi, D. Datta, C. Bond, et al. (mBio 13:e01325-22, 2022, https://journals.asm.org/doi/10.1128/mbio.01325-22) studied intestinal barrier dysfunction and injury in Ugandan children hospitalized with severe malaria and in healthy community controls. By measuring circulating levels of four different and complementary biomarkers of gut barrier dysfunction and microbial translocation, they demonstrated that intestinal injury is common in pediatric severe malaria (18% of all cases) and is associated with increased mortality, acute kidney injury, acidosis, and endothelial activation. This commentary discusses the prognostic implications of these results, knowledge gaps that remain to be filled, and how findings could be potentially translated into effective interventions to improve outcomes in children with malaria.