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PLoS One. 2008 Apr 30;3(4):e2027. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0002027.

Correlation of memory T cell responses against TRAP with protection from clinical malaria, and CD4 CD25 high T cells with susceptibility in Kenyans.

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  • 1Centre for Clinical Vaccinology and Tropical Medicine, Oxford University, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, United Kingdom.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2011;6(2). doi: 10.1371/annotation/23d1eb6a-45de-4181-a6dd-eff9b08d2669.



Immunity to malaria develops naturally in endemic regions, but the protective immune mechanisms are poorly understood. Many vaccination strategies aim to induce T cells against diverse pre-erythrocytic antigens, but correlates of protection in the field have been limited. The objective of this study was to investigate cell-mediated immune correlates of protection in natural malaria. Memory T cells reactive against thrombospondin-related adhesive protein (TRAP) and circumsporozoite (CS) protein, major vaccine candidate antigens, were measured, as were frequencies of CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells, which may suppress immunity, and CD56(+) NK cells and gammadelta T cells, which may be effectors or may modulate immunity.


112 healthy volunteers living in rural Kenya were entered in the study. Memory T cells reactive against TRAP and CS were measured using a cultured IFNgamma ELISPOT approach, whilst CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells, CD56(+) NK cells, and gammadelta T cells were measured by flow cytometry. We found that T cell responses against TRAP were established early in life (<5 years) in contrast to CS, and cultured ELISPOT memory T cell responses did not correlate with ex-vivo IFNgamma ELISPOT effector responses. Data was examined for associations with risk of clinical malaria for a period of 300 days. Multivariate logistic analysis incorporating age and CS response showed that cultured memory T cell responses against TRAP were associated with a significantly reduced incidence of malaria (p = 0.028). This was not seen for CS responses. Higher numbers of CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells, potentially regulatory T cells, were associated with a significantly increased risk of clinical malaria (p = 0.039).


These data demonstrate a role for central memory T cells in natural malarial immunity and support current vaccination strategies aimed at inducing durable protective T cell responses against the TRAP antigen. They also suggest that CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells may negatively affect naturally acquired malarial immunity.

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