A number of genetically variant erythrocytes showed decreased deformability of both intact cells and membranes prepared therefrom as measured by laser diffractometry. Erythrocytes associated with minor or no clinical symptoms (eg, alpha-thalassemia traits, hemoglobin [Hb] E trait, Hb Constant Spring trait), which showed only a minimal decrease in deformability, were, in general, invaded efficiently by the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Other variant erythrocytes (beta-thalassemia/Hb E, homozygous Hb E, homozygous Hb Constant Spring, Hb H, Hb H/Hb Constant Spring) with low deformability showed different degrees of reduction in invasion susceptibility, most of which were less than proportional with deformability decrease. It is concluded that parasite invasion is only weakly related to gross cell deformability, which in turn depends on various factors other than membrane deformability.
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