Abstract

A specific DNA probe was used to study the effect of recombinant rat, mouse, and human gamma-interferon (gamma-IFN) on the course of sporozoite-induced malaria infections. In mice and rats infected with sporozoites of Plasmodium berghei, mouse and rat gamma-IFN's strongly inhibited the development of the exoerythrocytic forms in the liver liver cells of the hosts, but not the development of the erythrocytic stages. The degree of inhibition of the exoerythrocytic forms was proportional to the dose of gamma-IFN administered, but was independent of the number of sporozoites used for challenge. A 30 percent reduction in the development of exoerythrocytic forms in rat liver was achieved when 150 units (about 15 nanograms of protein) of rat gamma-IFN were injected a few hours before sporozoite challenge; the reduction was 90 percent or more with higher doses of gamma-IFN. The effect was less pronounced if the gamma-IFN was administered 18 hours before or a few hours after challenge. Human gamma-IFN also diminished the parasitemia in chimpanzees infected with sporozoites of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax. The target of gamma-IFN activity may be the infected hepatocytes themselves, as shown by in vitro experiments in which small doses of the human lymphokine inhibited the development of exoerythrocytic forms of Plasmodium berghei in a human hepatoma cell line. These results suggest that immunologically induced interferon may be involved in controlling malaria infection under natural conditions.