Synthetic subunit vaccines to sporozoites, merozoites, and gametes are being developed for malaria. The vaccine strategy assumes that the population to be immunized will respond favorably to these vaccine antigens. Using sera of 35 adults and 50 children from the The Gambia, West Africa, where Plasmodium falciparum is highly endemic, we examined the humoral immune response to candidate malaria vaccine antigens from sporozoites, merozoites, and gametes. We observed widespread restricted immunogenicity to defined parasite antigens in children and adults. HLA typing of adult lymphocytes demonstrated a marked diversity in HLA haplotypes in this population. Our results and those from our studies in mice suggest that genetic factors may partly explain the immunological non-responsiveness. This may necessitate re-evaluation of the malaria vaccine strategy.