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Antibodies elicited in adults by a primary Plasmodium falciparum blood-stage infection recognize different epitopes compared with immune individuals

Damon P Eisen12*, Lina Wang3, Helene Jouin4, E Elsa H Murhandarwati3, Casilda G Black3, Odile Mercereau-Puijalon4 and Ross L Coppel3

Author Affiliations

1 Clinical Centre for Research Excellence in Infectious Diseases, Victorian Infectious Diseases Service, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Grattan St, Parkville, Victoria, 3050, Australia

2 Malaria and Scabies Unit, Queensland Institute of Medical Research, Herston, Queensland, 4029, Australia

3 Department of Microbiology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, 3800, Australia

4 Unite d'Immunologie Moléculaire des Parasites, Institut Pasteur, Paris, France

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Malaria Journal 2007, 6:86  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-6-86

Published: 2 July 2007



Asexual stage antibody responses following initial Plasmodium falciparum infections in previously healthy adults may inform vaccine development, yet these have not been as intensively studied as they have in populations from malaria-endemic areas.


Serum samples were collected over a six-month period from twenty travellers having returned with falciparum malaria. Fourteen of these were malaria-naïve and six had a past history of one to two episodes of malaria. Antibodies to seven asexual stage P. falciparum antigens were measured by ELISA. Invasion inhibitory antibody responses to the 19kDa fragment of merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP119) were determined.


Short-lived antibody responses were found in the majority of the subjects. While MSP119 antibodies were most common, MSP1 block 2 antibodies were significantly less frequent and recognized conserved domains. Antibodies to MSP2 cross-reacted to the dimorphic allelic families and anti-MSP2 isotypes were not IgG3 skewed as shown previously. MSP119 invasion inhibiting antibodies were present in 9/20 patients. A past history of malaria did not influence the frequency of these short-lived, functional antibodies (p = 0.2, 2-tailed Fisher's exact test).


Adults infected with P. falciparum for the first time, develop relatively short-lived immune responses that, in the case of MSP119, are functional. Antibodies to the polymorphic antigens studied were particularly directed to allelic family specific, non-repetitive and conserved determinants and were not IgG subclass skewed. These responses are substantially different to those found in malaria immune individuals.