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Erythrocyte survival times were measured in healthy Thai controls and in patients following clearance of asexual P. falciparum or P. vivax parasitaemia. In five controls the mean cell life (MCL) of compatible donor erythrocytes was 89.6 d (mean range 73-101 d) compared with a mean MCL of 56.8 d (range 30-66 d) for autologous erythrocytes in 12 falciparum patients. In one of these patients the survival curve was biphasic with a rapid loss of some labelled cells. The survival of compatible donor erythrocytes was also studied in 10 patients and two types of survival curve could be distinguished. In five patients the cells had a mean MCL of 64.4 d (range 42-90 d). In the others survival curves were curvilinear, suggesting a complex mechanism of cell clearance or the presence of more than one cell population. There was initially a more rapid rate of destruction. In P. vivax malaria the MCL of autologous erythrocytes in seven patients was a mean of 67.2 d (range 34-74 d) and that of compatible donor cells in six patients was 66.8 d (range 54-76 d). In all except one of these patients both autologous and donor cell survival curves could be fitted to straight lines. No increase in cell-bound IgG or C3 was evident in 12 patients tested. The differences between the mean MCL in all the groups of patients and the controls were statistically significant at the 5% level. This indicates an increased rate of erythrocyte destruction following clearance of P. falciparum or P. vivax parasites which is not antibody or complement mediated. The mechanism is unknown, but appears to be extrinsic to the erythrocytes themselves and may result from nonspecific activation of the reticuloendothelial function associated with the parasitic infection.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Haematol

Publication Date





473 - 478


Adult, Animals, Erythrocyte Aging, Female, Humans, Malaria, Male, Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax