Malaria continues to cause alarming morbidity and mortality in more than 100 countries worldwide. Antigens in the various life cycle stages of malaria parasites are presented to the immune system during natural infection and it is widely recognized that after repeated malaria exposure, adults develop partially protective immunity. Specific antigens of natural immunity represent among the most important targets for the development of malaria vaccines. Immunity against the transmission stages of the malaria parasite represents an important approach to reduce malaria transmission and is believed to become an important tool for gradual elimination of malaria. Development of immunity against Plasmodium falciparum sexual stages was evaluated in primary school children aged 6–16 years in Makoni district of Zimbabwe, an area of low to modest malaria transmission. Malaria infection was screened by microscopy, rapid diagnostic tests and finally using nested PCR. Plasma samples were tested for antibodies against recombinant Pfs48/45 and Pfs47 by ELISA. Corresponding serum samples were used to test for P. falciparum transmission reducing activity in Anopheles stephensi and An. gambiae mosquitoes using the membrane feeding assay. The prevalence of malaria diagnosed by rapid diagnostic test kit (Paracheck)™ was 1.7%. However, of the randomly tested blood samples, 66% were positive by nested PCR. ELISA revealed prevalence (64% positivity at 1:500 dilution, in randomly selected 66 plasma samples) of antibodies against recombinant Pfs48/45 (mean A 405 nm = 0.53, CI = 0.46–0.60) and Pfs47 (mean A405 nm = 0.91, CI = 0.80–1.02); antigens specific to the sexual stages. The mosquito membrane feeding assay demonstrated measurable transmission reducing ability of the samples that were positive for Pfs48/45 antibodies by ELISA. Interestingly, 3 plasma samples revealed enhancement of infectivity of P. falciparum in An. stephensi mosquitoes. These studies revealed the presence of antibodies with transmission reducing immunity in school age children from a moderate transmission area of malaria, and provide further support to exploit target antigens such as Pfs48/45 for further development of a malaria transmission blocking vaccine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases