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Parassitologia. 1999 Sep;41(1-3):397-402.

Pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccine: mechanisms of protective immunity and human vaccine trials.

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Department of Medical and Molecular Parasitology, New York University School of Medicine, NY 10010, USA.


In order to provide a rational basis for the development of a pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccine we have aimed at: (a) elucidating the mechanisms of protection, and (b) identifying vaccine formulations that best elicit protection in experimental animals and humans. Based on earlier successful immunization of experimental animals with irradiated sporozoites, human volunteers were exposed to the bites of large numbers of Plasmodium falciparum or P. vivax infected irradiated mosquitoes. The result of this vaccine trial demonstrated for the first time that a pre-erythrocytic vaccine, administered to humans, can result in their complete resistance to malaria infection. However, since infected irradiated mosquitoes are unavailable for large scale vaccination, the alternative is to develop subunit vaccines. The human trials using irradiated sporozoites provided valuable information on the human immune responses to pre-erythrocytic stages and studies on mice an excellent experimental model to characterize protective immune mechanisms. The circumsporozoite protein, the first pre-erythrocytic antigen identified, is present in all malaria species, displaying a similar structure, with a central region of repeats, and two conserved regions, essential for parasite development. Most pre-erythrocytic vaccine candidates are based on the CS protein, expressed in various cell lines, microorganisms, and recently the corresponding DNA. We and others have identified CS-specific B and T cell epitopes, recognized by the rodent and human immune systems, and used them for the development of synthetic vaccines. We used synthetic peptide vaccines, multiple antigen peptides and polyoximes, for immunization, first in experimental animals, and recently in two human safety and immunogenicity trials. We also report here on our work on T cell mediated immunity, particularly the protection of mice immunized with viral vectors expressing CS-specific cytotoxic CD8+ T cell epitopes, and the striking booster effect of recombinant vaccinia virus. To what degree CD8+ T cells, and/or other T cells specific for sporozoites and/or liver stage epitopes, contribute to pre-erythrocytic protective immunity in humans, remains to be determined.

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