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Many studies on the role of merozoite surface protein 3 (MSP3) in immunity against malaria have focused on a conserved section of MSP3. New evidence suggests that polymorphic sequences within MSP3 are under immune selection. We report a detailed analysis of naturally-acquired antibodies to allele-specific and conserved parts of MSP3 in a Kenyan cohort. Indirect and competition ELISA to heterologous recombinant MSP3 proteins were used for antibody assays, and parasites were genotyped for msp3 alleles. Antibody reactivity to allele-specific and conserved epitopes of MSP3 was heterogeneous between individuals. Overall, the prevalence of allele-specific antibody reactivity was significantly higher (3D7-specific 54%, K1-specific 41%) than that to a recombinant protein representing a conserved portion of C-terminal MSP3 (24%, P < 0.01). The most abundant IgG subclass was IgG3, followed by IgG1. Allele-specific reactivity to the K1-type of MSP3 was associated with a lower risk of clinical malaria episodes during a 6-month follow-up in individuals who were parasitized at the start of the malaria transmission season (Relative risk 0.41 with 95% confidence interval 0.20-0.81, P = 0.011). The potential importance of allele-specific immunity to MSP3 should be considered in addition to immunity to conserved epitopes, in the development of an MSP3 malaria vaccine.

Original publication




Journal article


Parasite Immunol

Publication Date





387 - 394


Alleles, Animals, Antibodies, Protozoan, Antigens, Protozoan, Cohort Studies, Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay, Epitopes, Humans, Immunoglobulin G, Kenya, Longitudinal Studies, Malaria, Falciparum, Plasmodium falciparum, Protozoan Proteins, Recombinant Fusion Proteins