Malaria: Immunity


Malaria, a vector‐borne disease caused by Plasmodium parasites, remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the developing world. To attain a substantial and steady decline in disease and deaths, a safe and efficacious vaccine is an indispensable tool. However, fundamental to the discovery, design and development of a malaria vaccine is a comprehensive knowledge of the induction and regulation of protective immune responses against the parasite. To this end, studies utilizing animal models, naïve human volunteers and individuals living in malaria endemic areas have provided important insights regarding the different mechanisms of antimalaria immunity.

Keywords: malaria; Plasmodium; immunity; protection; vaccine

Figure 1.

Plasmodium life cycle progression in the mammalian host and major targets of antiparasite immune responses. The malaria parasite is transmitted during the probing phase of a female Anopheles mosquito that delivers around a dozen sporozoites into the skin. Sporozoites are highly motile and rapidly enter a nearby capillary from where they eventually reach the liver. Sporozoites actively enter a suitable hepatocyte and commence intracellular transformation and replication. During EEF development, an infected hepatocyte will produce tens of thousands of pathogenic merozoites that egress out of the liver. Merozoites actively penetrate erythrocytes where they develop into growth stages (trophozoites) and finally into 16–32 new merozoites that initiate another blood stage cycle. A subpopulation of asexual blood stages will transform into male (pink) and female (blue) sexual stages that are transmitted to the Anopheles mosquito. Antibody‐mediated protection may occur neutralizing the extracellular invasion stages (sporozoites and merozoites). Cellular immunity largely acts against the intracellular EEFs.



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Further Reading

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Hafalla, Julius Clemence R, Matuschewski, Kai, and Mueller, Ann‐Kristin(Dec 2007) Malaria: Immunity. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0020183]