Plasmodium falciparum line-dependent association of in vitro growth-inhibitory activity and risk of malaria

Rono J, Farnert A, Olsson D, Osier F, Rooth I, Persson KE
Infect Immun. 2012;80

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Plasmodium falciparum's ability to invade erythrocytes is essential for its survival within the human host. Immune mechanisms that impair this ability are therefore expected to contribute to immunity against the parasite. Plasma of humans who are naturally exposed to malaria has been shown to have growth-inhibitory activity (GIA) in vitro. However, the importance of GIA in relation to protection from malaria has been unclear. In a case-control study nested within a longitudinally followed population in Tanzania, plasma samples collected at baseline from 171 individuals (55 cases and 116 age-matched controls) were assayed for GIA using three P. falciparum lines (3D7, K1, and W2mef) chosen based on their erythrocyte invasion phenotypes. Distribution of GIA differed between the lines, with most samples inhibiting the growth of 3D7 and K1 and enhancing the growth of W2mef. GIA to 3D7 was associated with a reduced risk of malaria within 40 weeks of follow-up (odds ratio, 0.45; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.21 to 0.96; P = 0.04), whereas GIA to K1 and W2mef was not. These results show that GIA, as well as its association with protection from malaria, is dependent on the P. falciparum line and can be explained by differences in erythrocyte invasion phenotypes between parasite lines. Our study contributes knowledge on the biological importance of growth inhibition and the potential influence of P. falciparum erythrocyte invasion phenotypic differences on its relationship to protective immunity against malaria.