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Naturally Acquired Immunity to Malaria

We analyse naturally acquired immune responses to malaria antigens in multiple cohorts of children and adults who reside in malaria-endemic areas. Ultimately, our vision is to see this knowledge translated into effective malaria vaccines for Africa.

We are interested in the genes involved in merozoite invasion of erythrocytes, their polymorphisms, and how these affect the process of red blood cell invasion or the evasion of immunity. We are also interested in the way malaria parasites at the time they live within erythroctyes undergo antigenic variation to avoid being recognised by the host immune system. Our aim is to determine whether there are common features of the parasite infected erythrocyte surface molecules PfEMP1, rif and stevor that may serve as targets of intervention against severe malaria.

The induction and maintenance of relevant immune responses determines the host’s ability to clear the infecting pathogen and fight future similar infections. Our work focuses on the cellular and molecular basis of naturally acquired immunity to malaria. In particular, we are interested in understanding the induction and maintenance of T and B cell responses, and whether variant-transcending T cells provide help to B cells that generate both variant-specific and cross-reactive antibodies thus enhancing protective antibody responses to variant surface antigens.

 

Investigators : Faith Osier,Francis Ndungu, Margaret Mackinnon, Peter Bull, Vandana Thathy, Philip Bejon, Isabella Oiyer, Yaw Bediako, Daniel Muema, Evelyn Gitau, Abdi Abdirahman