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Pregnancy-associated malaria (PAM) is an important cause of maternal and neonatal suffering. It is caused by Plasmodium falciparum capable of inhabiting the placenta through expression of particular variant surface antigens (VSA) with affinity for proteoglycans such as chondroitin sulfate A. Protective immunity to PAM develops following exposure to parasites inhabiting the placenta, and primigravidae are therefore particularly susceptible to PAM. The adverse consequences of PAM in primigravidae are preventable by intermittent preventive treatment (IPTp), where women are given antimalarials at specified intervals during pregnancy, but this may interfere with acquisition of protective PAM immunity. We found that Kenyan primigravidae receiving sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine IPTp had significantly lower levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG) with specificity for the type of parasite-encoded VSA-called VSA(PAM)-that specifically mediate protection against PAM than did women receiving a placebo. VSA(PAM)-specific IgG levels depended on the number of IPTp doses received and were sufficiently low to be of clinical concern among multidose recipients. Our data suggest that IPTp should be extended to women of all parities, in line with current World Health Organization recommendations.

Original publication




Journal article


Infect Immun

Publication Date





5027 - 5030


Animals, Antibodies, Protozoan, Antigens, Protozoan, Antimalarials, Drug Administration Schedule, Drug Combinations, Female, Humans, Immunoglobulin G, Malaria, Falciparum, Pregnancy, Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic, Pregnancy Trimester, Third, Pyrimethamine, Sulfadoxine