Transmission-dependent tolerance to multiclonal Plasmodium falciparum infection
Whether the number of concurrent clones in asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infections reflects the degree of host protection was investigated in children living in areas with different levels of transmission on the coast of Kenya. The number of concurrent clones was determined on the basis of polymorphism in msp2, which encodes the vaccine candidate antigen merozoite surface protein 2. In a low-transmission area, most children had monoclonal infections, and diversity did not predict a risk of clinical malaria. In an area of moderate transmission, asymptomatic infections with 2 clones were, compared with 1 clone, associated with an increased risk of subsequent malaria. In a comparative assessment in a high-transmission area in Tanzania, multiclonal infections conferred a reduced risk. The different nonlinear associations between the number of clones and malaria morbidity suggest that levels of tolerance to multiclonal infections are transmission dependent as a result of cumulative exposure to antigenically diverse P. falciparum infections.