Impaired systemic tetrahydrobiopterin bioavailability and increased oxidized biopterins in pediatric falciparum malaria: association with disease severity.


Decreased bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO) is a major contributor to the pathophysiology of severe falciparum malaria. Tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4) is an enzyme cofactor required for NO synthesis from L-arginine. We hypothesized that systemic levels of BH₄ would be decreased in children with cerebral malaria, contributing to low NO bioavailability. In an observational study in Tanzania, we measured urine levels of biopterin in its various redox states (fully reduced [BH₄] and the oxidized metabolites, dihydrobiopterin [BH₂] and biopterin [B₀]) in children with uncomplicated malaria (UM, n = 55), cerebral malaria (CM, n = 45), non-malaria central nervous system conditions (NMC, n = 48), and in 111 healthy controls (HC). Median urine BH4 concentration in CM (1.10 [IQR:0.55-2.18] μmol/mmol creatinine) was significantly lower compared to each of the other three groups - UM (2.10 [IQR:1.32-3.14];p