A combined analysis of immunogenicity, antibody kinetics and vaccine efficacy from phase 2 trials of the RTS,S malaria vaccine

White MT, Bejon P, Olotu A, Griffin JT, Bojang K, Lusingu J, Salim N, Abdulla S, Otsyula N, Agnandji ST, Lell B, Asante KP, Owusu-Agyei S, Mahama E, Agbenyega T, Ansong D, Sacarlal J, Aponte JJ, Ghani AC
BMC Med. 2014;12

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BACKGROUND: The RTS,S malaria vaccine is currently undergoing phase 3 trials. High vaccine-induced antibody titres to the circumsporozoite protein (CSP) antigen have been associated with protection from infection and episodes of clinical malaria. METHODS: Using data from 5,144 participants in nine phase 2 trials, we explore predictors of vaccine immunogenicity (anti-CSP antibody titres), decay in antibody titres, and the association between antibody titres and clinical outcomes. We use empirically-observed relationships between these factors to predict vaccine efficacy in a range of scenarios. RESULTS: Vaccine-induced anti-CSP antibody titres were significantly associated with age (P = 0.04), adjuvant (P <0.001), pre-vaccination anti-hepatitis B surface antigen titres (P = 0.005) and pre-vaccination anti-CSP titres (P <0.001). Co-administration with other vaccines reduced anti-CSP antibody titres although not significantly (P = 0.095). Antibody titres showed a bi-phasic decay over time with an initial rapid decay in the first three months and a second slower decay over the next three to four years. Antibody titres were significantly associated with protection, with a titre of 51 (95% Credible Interval (CrI): 29 to 85) ELISA units/ml (EU/mL) predicted to prevent 50% of infections in children. Vaccine efficacy was predicted to decline to zero over four years in a setting with entomological inoculation rate (EIR) = 20 infectious bites per year (ibpy). Over a five-year follow-up period at an EIR = 20 ibpy, we predict RTS,S will avert 1,782 cases per 1,000 vaccinated children, 1,452 cases per 1,000 vaccinated infants, and 887 cases per 1,000 infants when co-administered with expanded programme on immunisation (EPI) vaccines. Our main study limitations include an absence of vaccine-induced cellular immune responses and short duration of follow-up in some individuals. CONCLUSIONS: Vaccine-induced anti-CSP antibody titres and transmission intensity can explain variations in observed vaccine efficacy.