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BACKGROUND: Immunity to malaria develops naturally in endemic regions, but the protective immune mechanisms are poorly understood. Many vaccination strategies aim to induce T cells against diverse pre-erythrocytic antigens, but correlates of protection in the field have been limited. The objective of this study was to investigate cell-mediated immune correlates of protection in natural malaria. Memory T cells reactive against thrombospondin-related adhesive protein (TRAP) and circumsporozoite (CS) protein, major vaccine candidate antigens, were measured, as were frequencies of CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells, which may suppress immunity, and CD56(+) NK cells and gammadelta T cells, which may be effectors or may modulate immunity. METHODOLOGY AND PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: 112 healthy volunteers living in rural Kenya were entered in the study. Memory T cells reactive against TRAP and CS were measured using a cultured IFNgamma ELISPOT approach, whilst CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells, CD56(+) NK cells, and gammadelta T cells were measured by flow cytometry. We found that T cell responses against TRAP were established early in life (<5 years) in contrast to CS, and cultured ELISPOT memory T cell responses did not correlate with ex-vivo IFNgamma ELISPOT effector responses. Data was examined for associations with risk of clinical malaria for a period of 300 days. Multivariate logistic analysis incorporating age and CS response showed that cultured memory T cell responses against TRAP were associated with a significantly reduced incidence of malaria (p = 0.028). This was not seen for CS responses. Higher numbers of CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells, potentially regulatory T cells, were associated with a significantly increased risk of clinical malaria (p = 0.039). CONCLUSIONS: These data demonstrate a role for central memory T cells in natural malarial immunity and support current vaccination strategies aimed at inducing durable protective T cell responses against the TRAP antigen. They also suggest that CD4(+) CD25(high) T cells may negatively affect naturally acquired malarial immunity.

Original publication

DOI

10.1371/journal.pone.0002027

Type

Journal article

Journal

PLoS One

Publication Date

30/04/2008

Volume

3

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, African Continental Ancestry Group, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, CD4 Antigens, Cells, Cultured, Child, Child, Preschool, Cytokines, Disease Susceptibility, Humans, Immunologic Memory, Incidence, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Interferon-gamma, Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit, Intracellular Space, Kenya, Malaria, Middle Aged, Phenotype, Protozoan Proteins, T-Lymphocytes