The Dielmo Project: a Longitudinal Study of Natural Malaria Infection and the Mechanisms of Protective Immunity in a Community Living in a Holoendemic Area of Senegal

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  • Laboratoire de Paludologie, ORSTOM, Service d'Epidemiologie, Institut Pasteur de Dakar, Laboratoire de Parasitologie Biomedicale et Unite de Parasitologie Experimentale, Institut Pasteur, Departement de Biologie Animale, Universite de Dakar, Dakar, Senegal

The Dielmo project, initiated in 1990, consisted of long-term investigations on host-parasite relationships and the mechanisms of protective immunity in the 247 residents of a Senegalese village in which malaria is holoendemic. Anopheles gambiae s.l. and An. funestus constituted more than 98% of 11,685 anophelines collected and were present all year round. Inoculation rates of Plasmodium falciparum, P. malariae, and P. ovale averaged respectively 0.51, 0.10, and 0.04 infective bites per person per night. During a four-month period of intensive parasitologic and clinical monitoring, Plasmodium falciparum, P. malariae, and P. ovale were observed in 72.0%, 21.1% and 6.0%, respectively, of the 8,539 thick smears examined. Individual longitudinal data revealed that 98.6% of the villagers harbored trophozoites of P. falciparum at least once during the period of the study. Infections by P. malariae and P. ovale were both observed in individuals of all age groups and their cumulative prevalences reached 50.5% and 40.3%, respectively. Malaria was responsible for 162 (60.9%) of 266 febrile episodes; 159 of these attacks were due to P. falciparum, three to P. ovale, and none to P. malariae. The incidence of malaria attacks was 40 times higher in children 0–4 years of age than in adults more than 40 years old. Our findings suggest that sterile immunity and clinical protection are never fully achieved in humans continuously exposed since birth to intense transmission.