Agglutination of Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes from East and West African Isolates by Human Sera from Distant Geographic Regions

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  • Laboratory of Infectious Diseases, DNAX Research Institute, Muhimbili Medical Research Center, Medical Research Laboratories, Fajara, Department of Microbiology, Brigham Young University, Instituto de Inmunologia, Hospital San Juan de Dios, Department of Tropical Medicine and Infectious Diseases, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Department of Child Health, University of Ghana Medical School, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Palo Alto, California, Tanzania

Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (PfE) were collected from acutely infected children in The Gambia and Tanzania and cultured for more than 30 hr until the parasites were mature trophozoites. Sera collected from these countries, other African countries, Asia, and South America were used in the PfE microagglutination test to determine whether PfE from East and West Africa share surface antigens. From the patterns of agglutination reactivity, we identified extensive antigenic diversity in surface antigens, but obtained no evidence for greater differences between isolates from East or West Africa and those within one region. The majority of sera from immune adults from The Gambia, Tanzania, Sudan, Nigeria, or Ghana were pan-agglutinating, and agglutinated all PfE isolates from The Gambia and Tanzania. Some sera from immune adults of Irian Jaya also agglutinated each of the seven African isolates, while others agglutinated many but not all of the isolates, similar to sera from immune adults of Flores, Indonesia. In contrast, sera from nonimmune adults from Colombia agglutinated few of the African isolates. It was remarkable, however, that sera from nonimmune Colombians agglutinated any African isolates. Our results are consistent with the following conclusions: some PfE surface antigen(s) are very diverse; this diversity is a feature of the parasite worldwide; the repertoire of isolate-specific surface antigens, although large, includes antigens that are either identical or antigenically cross-reactive in geographically very distant parasite populations; and African adults have pan-agglutinating antibodies that may contribute to protective immunity. Such pan-agglutinating antibodies could reflect the accumulation of a large repertoire of isolate-specific antibodies. The contribution of antibody against any shared PfE surface antigen to the pan-agglutinating reactivities is unknown and awaits development of the appropriate reagents.

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