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Open Access Commentary

The hunt for protective correlates of immunity to Plasmodium falciparum malaria

Ann M Moormann1 and V Ann Stewart2

Author Affiliations

1 Program in Molecular Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Biotech 2, Suite 318, 373 Plantation Street, Worcester 01605, Massachusetts, USA

2 Preventive Medicine and Biometrics, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences, 4301 Jones Bridge Road, Bethesda 20814, Maryland, USA

BMC Medicine 2014, 12:134  doi:10.1186/s12916-014-0134-1

Published: 8 August 2014


Determining an immunologic correlate of protection against Plasmodium falciparum malaria has been the holy grail of natural infection studies, and sought after as an endpoint for malaria vaccine trials. An in vitro assay that provides an accurate and precise assessment of protective immunity to malaria would make smaller, short-duration studies feasible, rather than the currently powered study designs that use morbidity or mortality as outcomes. Such a biomarker would be especially desirable in situations where malaria control measures that result in decreases in clinical endpoints and putatively waning protective immunity have been implemented. In an article published in BMC Medicine, Osier and colleagues addressed this problem, and demonstrated that antibodies promoting opsonic phagocytosis of merozoites provide a functional link between antigen-specific responses and protection. Understanding the mechanisms conferring protection against malaria not only improves our knowledge of basic human immunology, but promises to help in the design of an effective malaria vaccine.

Please see related article: webcite.

Malaria; Functional antibody assay; Opsonic; Phagocytosis