Wednesday, 1 February 2012

MALARIA: Deeper understanding of acquisition of antibodies against #malaria vaccine target antigens in infancy is crucial

Plasmodium falciparum blood-stage antigens such as merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP-1), apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA-1), and the 175-kDa erythrocyte binding antigen (EBA-175) are considered important targets of naturally acquired immunity to malaria. However, it is not clear whether antibodies to these antigens are effectors in protection against clinical disease or mere markers of exposure. In the context of a randomized, placebo-controlled trial of intermittent preventive treatment in infants conducted between 2002 and 2004, antibody responses to Plasmodium falciparum blood-stage antigens in a cohort of 302 Mozambican children were evaluated by immunofluorescence antibody test and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay at 5, 9, 12, and 24 months of age. We found that IgG subclass responses to EBA-175 were differentially associated with the incidence of malaria in the follow-up period. A double amount of cytophilic IgG1 or IgG3 was associated with a significant decrease in the incidence of malaria (incidence rate ratio [IRR] = 0.49, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 0.25 to 0.97, and P = 0.026 and IRR = 0.44, CI = 0.19 to 0.98, and P = 0.037, respectively), while a double amount of noncytophilic IgG4 was significantly correlated with an increased incidence of malaria (IRR = 3.07, CI = 1.08 to 8.78, P = 0.020). No significant associations between antibodies to the 19-kDa fragment of MSP-1 (MSP-119) or AMA-1 and incidence of malaria were found. Age, previous episodes of malaria, present infection, and neighborhood of residence were the main factors influencing levels of antibodies to all merozoite antigens. Deeper understanding of the acquisition of antibodies against vaccine target antigens in early infancy is crucial for the rational development and deployment of malaria control tools in this vulnerable population.

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