Measuring the Effects of An Ever-Changing Environment on Malaria Control

Thomas F. McCutchan, K. Christiana Grim, Jun Li, Walter Weiss, Darmendar Rathore, Margery Sullivan, Thaddeus K. Graczyk, Sanjai Kumar, Mike R. Cranfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effectiveness of malaria control measures depends not only on the potency of the control measures themselves but also upon the influence of variables associated with the environment. Environmental variables have the capacity either to enhance or to impair the desired outcome. An optimal outcome in the field, which is ultimately the real goal of vaccine research, will result from prior knowledge of both the potency of the control measures and the role of environmental variables. Here we describe both the potential effectiveness of control measures and the problems associated with testing in an area of endemicity. We placed canaries with different immunologic backgrounds (e.g., naive to malaria infection, vaccinated naive, and immune) directly into an area where avian malaria, Plasmodium relictum, is endemic. In our study setting, canaries that are naïve to malaria infection routinely suffer approximately 50% mortality during their first period of exposure to the disease. In comparison, birds vaccinated and boosted with a DNA vaccine plasmid encoding the circumsporozoite protein of P. relictum exhibited a moderate degree of protection against natural infection (P < 0.01). In the second year we followed the fate of all surviving birds with no further manipulation. The vaccinated birds from the first year were no longer statistically distinguishable for protection against malaria from cages of naive birds. During this period, 36% of vaccinated birds died of malaria. We postulate that the vaccine-induced protective immune responses prevented the acquisition of natural immunity similar to that concurrently acquired by birds in a neighboring cage. These results indicate that dominant environmental parameters associated with malaria deaths can be addressed before their application to a less malleable human system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2248-2253
Number of pages6
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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