Antibody responses to Plasmodium falciparum: evolution according to the severity of a prior clinical episode and association with subsequent reinfection.

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  • 1 Department of Parasitology, Institute for Tropical Medicine, University of Tübingen, Germany.

We measured sporozoite- and total parasite antigen-specific IgG and IgM antibodies before and after treatment in matched groups of Gabonese children who presented with either mild or severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria. We investigated the influence of various parameters on these antibody responses, including clinical presentation, age, and post-treatment reinfection profiles. IgG but not IgM responses were strongly influenced by both clinical and parasitological status. IgG responses to the repeat region of the circumsporozoite protein, which were low at admission, particularly so in those with severe anemia, increased after treatment but showed no association with either age or reinfection profiles. Total parasite antigen-specific IgG responses were strongly influenced by parasitological status, and also differed significantly when segregated according to clinical status at admission, age, and reinfection histories. Most notably, anti-parasite IgG responses measured when children were parasite-free were higher and a good indicator of recent reinfections in those who presented with mild rather than with severe malaria. The profile of responses in the latter group suggests some immune system dysfunction, which may reflect the induction of tolerance to parasite antigens.