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Parasite Immunol. 2004 Apr;26(4):159-65.

Parasite infectivity and immunity to Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes in Gambian children.

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Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel St., London WC1E 7HT, UK.


Immunity to the sexual stages of Plasmodium falciparum can be induced during natural infections. Characterization of this immunity may facilitate the design of a transmission-blocking vaccine (TBV). This study aimed to assess the prevalence and serological correlates of functional transmission-blocking immunity in Gambian children (aged 1-4 years old) who were P. falciparum gametocyte carriers. Serological assays showed 100% response to fixed, whole parasites but only 42% to live gametes. Responses to the antigens Pfs230 and Pfs48/45 were 54.1% and 37.3%, respectively, in an IgG1 ELISA. 14/55 sera were capable of reducing the infectivity of laboratory isolate NF54 in a standard membrane-feeding assay (SMFA). This activity was strongly correlated with IgG1 responses to Pfs48/45 (r = 0.49, P < 0.001) and to a serological reaction with epitopes of the same molecule (r = 0.38, P = 0.003). A weaker correlation was observed with IgG1 to Pfs230 (r = 0.29, P = 0.03). In direct membrane feeding assays (DMFA) with autologous isolates, sera from 4/29 children showed transmission-blocking activity. There was no correlation with serological assays and the DMFA or between the SMFA and DMFA. This may be caused by variation in sexual stage antigens and/or alternative modes of transmission-blocking immunity, both of which have implications for vaccine implementation.

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