Semi-immunity against Plasmodium falciparum occurs after many infections. In areas of high malaria transmission, the prevalence of asymptomatic parasite carriers increases with age. We investigated P. falciparum genotypes in a cohort of asymptomatic carriers who were followed until they became symptomatic. Blood spots on filter paper and blood smears were collected daily from 10 children in LambarÃ©nÃ©, Gabon. The parasite genotypes present on successive days were determined by a polymerase chain reaction using the polymorphic region of the merozoite surface antigen-2 for typing. The same parasite genotypes persisted in eight out of ten children and parasite densities were low throughout the asymptomatic phase indicating inhibition of parasite growth. Appearance of symptoms was associated with an increase in parasitemia and appearance of novel parasite genotypes. The results suggest that the parasites causing a clinical episode are those against which a child has not yet mounted an efficient protective immune response.
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