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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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1
Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Keppel St., London WC1E 7HT, UK. chris.drakeley@lshtm.ac.uk

Abstract

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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