Breadth and magnitude of antibody responses to multiple Plasmodium falciparum merozoite antigens are associated with protection from clinical malaria.
Osier FHA., Fegan G., Polley SD., Murungi L., Verra F., Tetteh KKA., Lowe B., Mwangi T., Bull PC., Thomas AW., Cavanagh DR., McBride JS., Lanar DE., Mackinnon MJ., Conway DJ., Marsh K.
Individuals living in areas where malaria is endemic are repeatedly exposed to many different malaria parasite antigens. Studies on naturally acquired antibody-mediated immunity to clinical malaria have largely focused on the presence of responses to individual antigens and their associations with decreased morbidity. We hypothesized that the breadth (number of important targets to which antibodies were made) and magnitude (antibody level measured in a random serum sample) of the antibody response were important predictors of protection from clinical malaria. We analyzed naturally acquired antibodies to five leading Plasmodium falciparum merozoite-stage vaccine candidate antigens, and schizont extract, in Kenyan children monitored for uncomplicated malaria for 6 months (n = 119). Serum antibody levels to apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) and merozoite surface protein antigens (MSP-1 block 2, MSP-2, and MSP-3) were inversely related to the probability of developing malaria, but levels to MSP-1(19) and erythrocyte binding antigen (EBA-175) were not. The risk of malaria was also inversely associated with increasing breadth of antibody specificities, with none of the children who simultaneously had high antibody levels to five or more antigens experiencing a clinical episode (17/119; 15%; P = 0.0006). Particular combinations of antibodies (AMA1, MSP-2, and MSP-3) were more strongly predictive of protection than others. The results were validated in a larger, separate case-control study whose end point was malaria severe enough to warrant hospital admission (n = 387). These findings suggest that under natural exposure, immunity to malaria may result from high titers antibodies to multiple antigenic targets and support the idea of testing combination blood-stage vaccines optimized to induce similar antibody profiles.