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Acta Trop. 2005 Sep;95(3):270-5.

Naturally acquired immunity to Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Africa.

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  • 1Centre for Medical Parasitology, Copenhagen University Hospital (Rigshospitalet), University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Infection by Plasmodium falciparum parasites can lead to substantial protective immunity to malaria, and available evidence suggest that acquisition of protection against some severe malaria syndromes can be fairly rapid. Although these facts have raised hopes that the development of effective vaccines against this major cause of human misery is a realistic goal, the uncertainty regarding the antigenic targets of naturally acquired protective immunity and the immunological mechanisms involved remain major vaccine development obstacles. Nevertheless, a coherent theoretical framework of how protective immunity to P. falciparum malaria is acquired following natural exposure to the parasites is beginning to emerge, not least thanks to studies that have combined clinical and epidemiological data with basic immunological research. This framework involves IgG with specificity for clonally variant antigens on the surface of the infected erythrocytes, can explain some of the difficulties in relating particular immune responses with specificity for well-defined antigenic targets to clinical protection, and suggests a radically new approach to controlling malaria-related morbidity and mortality by immunological means.

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