Researchers have identified a new group of genes, which is believed to be responsible for the phenomenon now known as 'pregnancy malaria'.
'Pregnancy malaria' can cause severe problems for both mother and child such as maternal anaemia, low birth weight and increased neonatal and infant mortality rates.
Most individuals living in areas of the world where malaria transmission is constant acquire clinical immunity by adulthood.
However, women becoming pregnant for the first time have shown increased susceptibility to Plasmodium falciparum parasites that specifically target the placenta.
In the study, the analysis of whole-genome-expression of parasites collected from Tanzanian women with pregnancy malaria was conducted.
The researchers identified six genes significantly higher in both placental and peripheral parasites.
A member of a variant group of genes previously linked to pregnancy malaria, as well as five genes of unknown functions, were also found.
"These findings suggest that a suite of genes may be important for the genesis of the placental binding phenotype of P. falciparum and may provide novel targets for therapeutic intervention," researchers said.
The study is published in the journal Infection and Immunity.