Host Blood Gene Signatures Can Detect the Progression to Severe and Cerebral Malaria

Mohamed Omar, Luigi Marchionni, Georg Häcker, Mohamed Tarek Badr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Malaria is a major international public health problem that affects millions of patients worldwide especially in sub-Saharan Africa. Although many tests have been developed to diagnose malaria infections, we still lack reliable diagnostic biomarkers for the identification of disease severity, especially in endemic areas where the diagnosis of cerebral malaria is very difficult and requires the exclusion of all other possible causes. Previous host and pathogen transcriptomic studies have not yielded homogenous results that can be harnessed into a reliable diagnostic tool. Here we utilized a multi-cohort analysis approach using machine-learning algorithms to identify blood gene signatures that can distinguish severe and cerebral malaria from moderate and non-cerebral cases. Using a Regularized Random Forest model, we identified 28-gene and 32-gene signatures that can reliably distinguish severe and cerebral malaria, respectively. We tested the specificity of both signatures against other common infectious diseases to ensure the signatures reliability and suitability as diagnostic markers. The severe and cerebral malaria gene-signatures were further integrated through k-top scoring pairs classifiers into ten and nine gene pairs that could distinguish severe and cerebral malaria, respectively. These signatures have various implications that can be utilized as blood diagnostic tools for malaria severity in endemic countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number743616
JournalFrontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology
StatePublished - Oct 22 2021


  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • cerebral malaria
  • gene-signature
  • immune response
  • malaria
  • multi-cohort analysis
  • point-of-care
  • transcriptomics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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