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Infect Genet Evol. 2007 Jan;7(1):44-51. Epub 2006 May 2.

Effect of the malaria vaccine Combination B on merozoite surface antigen 2 diversity.

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  • 1Swiss Tropical Institute, Socinstrasse 57, Postfach, CH 4002 Basel, Switzerland.


Extensive genetic polymorphism is generally found in Plasmodium falciparum surface antigens. This poses a considerable obstacle to the development of a malaria vaccine. In order to assess possible effects of a polymorphic vaccine, we have analyzed the genetic diversity of parasites collected in the course of a phase 2b field trial of the blood stage vaccine Combination B in Papua New Guinea. The full-length 3D7 allele of the merozoite surface protein 2 (MSP2) was included in Combination B as one of three subunits. Vaccinees had a lower prevalence of parasites carrying a 3D7-type allele (corresponding to that in the vaccine) and selection appeared to favour the alternative FC27-type alleles resulting in a higher incidence of morbid episodes associated with FC27-type parasites. We sequenced MSP2 alleles detected in study participants after vaccination to identify breakthrough genotypes. Extensive genetic diversity of MSP2 was observed in both the repetitive and family-specific domains, but alleles occurring in vaccine recipients were no different from those found in placebo recipients. A phylogenetic analysis showed no clustering of 3D7-type breakthrough infections from vaccine recipients. The repeat unit present in the vaccine molecule occurred in a number of alleles from the trial area and was also observed in vaccinated individuals. Thus the anti-repeat immune response did not lead to elimination of parasites carrying the same repeat unit. We conclude that the conserved epitopes in the family-specific domain were the most important determinants of the vaccine effect against new 3D7-type infections and that the hypervariable domains were not subject to selective effects of the vaccine.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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