Skeletal muscle fibre type and enzymatic activity in adult offspring following placental and peripheral malaria exposure in foetal life

Dirk L Christensen, Theonest K Mutabingwa, Ib C Bygbjerg, Allan A Vaag, Louise G Grunnet, Fanny Lajeunesse-Trempe, Jannie Nielsen, Christentze Schmiegelow, Kaushik L Ramaiya, Kathryn H Myburgh


BACKGROUND: Maternal malaria may restrict foetal growth. Impaired utero-placental blood flow due to malaria infection may cause hypoxia-induced altered skeletal muscle fibre type distribution in the offspring, which may contribute to insulin resistance and impaired glucose metabolism. This study assessed muscle fibre distribution 20 years after placental and/or peripheral in-utero malaria exposure compared to no exposure, i.e., PPM+, PM+, and M-, respectively.

METHODS: We traced 101 men and women offspring of mothers who participated in a malaria chemosuppression study in Muheza, Tanzania. Of 76 eligible participants, 50 individuals (29 men and 21 women) had skeletal muscle biopsy taken from m. vastus lateralis in the right leg. As previously reported, fasting and 30 min post-oral glucose challenge plasma glucose values were higher, and insulin secretion disposition index was lower, in the PPM+ group. Aerobic capacity (fitness) was estimated by an indirect VO2max test on a stationary bicycle. Muscle fibre sub-type (myosin heavy chain, MHC) distribution was analysed, as were muscle enzyme activities (citrate synthase (CS), 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase, myophosphorylase, phosphofructokinase, lactate dehydrogenase, and creatine kinase activities. Between-group analyses were adjusted for MHC-I %.

RESULTS: No differences in aerobic capacity were found between groups. Despite subtle elevations of plasma glucose levels in the PPM+ group, there was no difference in MHC sub-types or muscle enzymatic activities between the malaria-exposed and non-exposed groups.

CONCLUSION: The current study did not show differences in MHC towards glycolytic sub-types or enzymatic activity across the sub-groups. The results support the notion of the mild elevations of plasma glucose levels in people exposed to placental malaria in pregnancy being due to compromised pancreatic insulin secretion rather than insulin resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1122393
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Pages (from-to)1122393
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Pregnancy
  • Male
  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Female
  • Blood Glucose/metabolism
  • Insulin Resistance
  • Adult Children
  • Placenta
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal/metabolism


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