Open Access Research article

Acquisition of antibodies to merozoite surface protein 3 among residents of Korogwe, north eastern Tanzania

Method D Segeja*, Bruno P Mmbando, Misago D Seth, John P Lusingu and Martha M Lemnge

Author Affiliations

National Institute for Medical Research, Tanga Medical Research Centre, PO Box 5004, Tanga, Tanzania

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BMC Infectious Diseases 2010, 10:55  doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-55

Published: 8 March 2010



A polymorphic malaria parasite antigen, merozoite surface protein 3 (MSP3), is among the blood stage malaria vaccine candidates. It is believed to induce immunity through cytophilic antibodies that disrupt the process of erythrocytes invasion by merozoites. This study aimed at assessing natural acquisition of antibodies to MSP3 in individuals living in an area with different malaria transmission intensity in preparation for malaria vaccine trials.


The study was conducted in individuals aged 0-19 years from villages located in lowland, intermediate and highland strata in Korogwe district, northeastern Tanzania. Blood samples from 492 study participants were collected between May and June 2006 for malaria diagnosis and immunological investigations. Reactivity of MSP3 to different types of antibodies (immunoglobulin M, G and IgG subclass 1 and 3) were analysed by Enzyme Linked ImmunoSorbent Assay (ELISA).


Malaria parasite prevalence was higher in the lowland (50%) compared to the intermediate (23.1%) and highland (9.8%) strata. Immunogloblin G subclasses 1 and 3 (IgG1 & IgG3), total IgG and IgM were found to increase with increasing age. IgG3 levels were significantly higher than IgG1 (p < 0.001). Furthermore, Plasmodium falciparum infection was associated with higher IgG3 levels (p = 0.008). Adjusting by strata and age in individuals who had positive blood smears, both IgG and IgM were associated with parasite density, whereby IgG levels decreased by 0.227 (95%CI: 0.064 - 0.391; p = 0.007) while IgM levels decreased by 0.165 (95%CI: 0.044 - 0.286; p = 0.008).


Individuals with higher levels of IgG3 might be partially protected from malaria infection. Higher levels of total IgG and IgM in highlands might be due to low exposure to malaria infection, recent infection or presence of cross-reactive antigens. Further studies of longitudinal nature are recommended. Data obtained from this study were used in selection of one village (Kwashemshi) for conducting MSP3 phase 1b malaria vaccine trial in Korogwe.