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Global host metabolic response to Plasmodium vivax infection: a 1H NMR based urinary metabonomic study

Arjun Sengupta1, Soumita Ghosh1, Angika Basant23, Suhas Malusare1, Parul Johri1, Sulabha Pathak2, Shobhona Sharma2* and Haripalsingh M Sonawat1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Chemical Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Homi Bhabha Road, Mumbai 400 005, India

2 Department of Biological Sciences, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Homi Bhabha Road, Mumbai 400 005, India

3 The Division of Biological Sciences, University of Chicago, 5812, S. Ellis Avenue, Chicago, IL 60637, USA

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Malaria Journal 2011, 10:384  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-10-384

Published: 23 December 2011



Plasmodium vivax is responsible for the majority of malarial infection in the Indian subcontinent. This species of the parasite is generally believed to cause a relatively benign form of the disease. However, recent reports from different parts of the world indicate that vivax malaria can also have severe manifestation. Host response to the parasite invasion is thought to be an important factor in determining the severity of manifestation. In this paper, attempt was made to determine the host metabolic response associated with P. vivax infection by means of NMR spectroscopy-based metabonomic techniques in an attempt to better understand the disease pathology.


NMR spectroscopy of urine samples from P. vivax-infected patients, healthy individuals and non-malarial fever patients were carried out followed by multivariate statistical analysis. Two data analysis techniques were employed, namely, Principal Component Analysis [PCA] and Orthogonal Projection to Latent Structure Discriminant Analysis [OPLS-DA]. Several NMR signals from the urinary metabolites were further selected for univariate comparison among the classes.


The urine metabolic profiles of P. vivax-infected patients were distinct from those of healthy individuals as well as of non-malarial fever patients. A highly predictive model was constructed from urine profile of malarial and non-malarial fever patients. Several metabolites were found to be varying significantly across these cohorts. Urinary ornithine seems to have the potential to be used as biomarkers of vivax malaria. An increasing trend in pipecolic acid was also observed. The results suggest impairment in the functioning of liver as well as impairment in urea cycle.


The results open up a possibility of non-invasive analysis and diagnosis of P. vivax using urine metabolic profile. Distinct variations in certain metabolites were recorded, and amongst these, ornithine may have the potential of being used as biomarker of malaria. Pipecolic acid also showed increasing trend in the malaria patient compared to the other groups.

Plasmodium vivax; NMR; metabonomics; metabolites; biomarker