Immunity to the asexual blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum is complex and likely involves several effector mechanisms. Antibodies are thought to play a critical role in malaria immunity, and a corresponding in vitro correlate of antibody-mediated immunity has long been sought to facilitate malaria vaccine development. The growth inhibition assay (GIA) measures the capacity of antibodies to limit red blood cell (RBC) invasion and/or growth of P. falciparum in vitro. In humans, naturally acquired and vaccine-induced P. falciparum-specific antibodies have growth-inhibitory activity, but it is unclear if growth-inhibitory activity correlates with protection from clinical disease. In a longitudinal study in Mali, purified IgGs, obtained from plasmas collected before the malaria season from 220 individuals aged 2 to 10 and 18 to 25 years, were assayed for growth-inhibitory activity. Malaria episodes were recorded by passive surveillance over the subsequent 6-month malaria season. Logistic regression showed that greater age (odds ratio [OR], 0.78; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 0.63 to 0.95; P = 0.02) and growth-inhibitory activity (OR, 0.50; 95% CI, 0.30 to 0.85; P = 0.01) were significantly associated with decreased malaria risk in children. A growth-inhibitory activity level of 40% was determined to be the optimal cutoff for discriminating malaria-immune and susceptible individuals in this cohort, with a sensitivity of 97.0%, but a low specificity of 24.3%, which limited the assay's ability to accurately predict protective immunity and to serve as an in vitro correlate of antibody-mediated immunity. These data suggest that antibodies which block merozoite invasion of RBC and/or inhibit the intra-RBC growth of the parasite contribute to but are not sufficient for the acquisition of malaria immunity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases