Controlled Human Malaria Infection Studies in Africa-Past, Present, and Future

Kibwana E, Kapulu M, Bejon P
Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2022;

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Controlled human infection studies have contributed significantly to the understanding of pathogeneses and treatment of infectious diseases. In malaria, deliberately infecting humans with malaria parasites was used as a treatment for neurosyphilis in the early 1920s. More recently, controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) has become a valuable, cost-effective tool to fast-track the development and evaluation of new anti-malarial drugs and/or vaccines. CHMI studies have also been used to define host/parasite interactions and immunological correlates of protection. CHMI involves infecting a small number of healthy volunteers with malaria parasites, monitoring their parasitemia and providing anti-malarial treatment when a set threshold is reached. In this review we discuss the introduction, development, and challenges of modern-day Plasmodium falciparum CHMI studies conducted in Africa, and the impact of naturally acquired immunity on infectivity and vaccine efficacy. CHMIs have shown to be an invaluable tool particularly in accelerating malaria vaccine research. Although there are limitations of CHMI studies for estimating public health impacts and for regulatory purposes, their strength lies in proof-of-concept efficacy data at an early stage of development, providing a faster way to select vaccines for further development and providing valuable insights in understanding the mechanisms of immunity to malarial infection.