Determining Correlates of Naturally Acquired Pre-Erythrocytic Immunity to Plasmodium falciparum Malaria in an Experimental Human Challenge Model  


Francis Ndungu, EDCTP Senior Fellow  

Project Description:

Malaria remains a major public health problem affecting the health and economic wellbeing of over 50% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population. In the absence of preventative vaccination, the situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. The development of an effective malaria vaccine has been difficult and would greatly benefit from a better understanding of the mechanisms that mediate naturally acquired immunity in adults with life-long exposure. A vaccine with protective efficacy against malaria is feasible, as several current approaches have achieved some success. For example, vaccinations with RTS,S/AS01 confer immunity to malaria in human trials. However, this vaccination is insufficiently protective in its current form and additional approaches are required. 
Understanding naturally acquired immunity from field studies of malaria is very difficult as people get infected at different times, with different parasite strains and with different doses of the parasite. In this study, we are using experimental medicine, where adults with different levels of immunity, are infected with malaria parasites in a controlled and safe manner – and then we study their immune response to that experimental infection. Using this approach, we hope identify malaria parasite components from the pre-erythrocytic stages of the life cycle of malaria parasites associated with inducing protective immune responses in humans for inclusion in malaria vaccines. 
During the project, several MSC and PhD students will be trained in immunological research. This Senior Fellowship (SF) places the fellow in a good place to support the training of research students, and both the out-puts and capacity development activities associated with the project will position him further an African Research Leader, increasing his impact in the development of science in the continent. 



Internal: Melissa Kapulu, Philp Bejon, and the Kilifi CHMI group 



  • Azza Idriss and Robert Serder, NIH, USA  
  •  Peter Billingsley and Stephen Hoffman, Sanaria, USA  
  • Ian Cockburn, The Australian National 


This project is part of the EDCTP2 programme supported by the European Union.