Recently, while studying erythrocytic apoptosis during Plasmodium yoelii
infection, we observed an increase in the levels of non-parasitised red blood cell (nRBC) apoptosis, which could be related to malarial anaemia. Therefore, in the present study, we attempted to investigate whether nRBC apoptosis is associated with the peripheral RBC count, parasite load or immune response. To this end, BALB/c mice were infected with P. yoelii
17XL and nRBC apoptosis, number of peripheral RBCs, parasitaemia and plasmatic levels of cytokines, nitric oxide and anti-RBC antibodies were evaluated at the early and late stages of anaemia. The apoptosis of nRBCs increased at the late stage and was associated with parasitaemia, but not with the intensity of the immune response. The increased percentage of nRBC apoptosis that was observed when anaemia was accentuated was not related to a reduction in peripheral RBCs. We conclude that nRBC apoptosis in P. yoelii
malaria appears to be induced in response to a high parasite load. Further studies on malaria models in which acute anaemia develops during low parasitaemia are needed to identify the potential pathogenic role of nRBC apoptosis.