Immune Responses to Gametocyte Antigens in a Malaria Endemic Population—The African falciparum Context: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

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Muthui, Michelle K 
Kamau, Alice 
Bousema, Teun 
Blagborough, Andrew M 
Bejon, Philip 

Background: Malaria elimination remains a priority research agenda with the need for interventions that reduce and/or block malaria transmission from humans to mosquitoes. Transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs) are in development, most of which target the transmission stage (i.e., gametocyte) antigens Pfs230 and Pfs48/45. For these interventions to be implemented, there is a need to understand the naturally acquired immunity to gametocytes. Several studies have measured the prevalence of immune responses to Pfs230 and Pfs48/45 in populations in malaria-endemic areas.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of studies carried out in African populations that measured the prevalence of immune responses to the gametocyte antigens Pfs230 and Pfs48/45. We assessed seroprevalence of antibody responses to the two antigens and investigated the effects of covariates such as age, transmission intensity/endemicity, season, and parasite prevalence on the prevalence of these antibody responses by meta-regression.

Results: We identified 12 studies covering 23 sites for inclusion in the analysis. We found that the range of reported seroprevalence to Pfs230 and Pfs48/45 varied widely across studies, from 0 to 64% for Pfs48/45 and from 6 to 72% for Pfs230. We also found a modest association between increased age and increased seroprevalence to Pfs230: adults were associated with higher seroprevalence estimates in comparison to children (β coefficient 0.21, 95% CI: 0.05–0.38, p = 0.042). Methodological factors were the most significant contributors to heterogeneity between studies which prevented calculation of pooled prevalence estimates.

Conclusions: Naturally acquired sexual stage immunity, as detected by antibodies to Pfs230 and Pfs48/45, was present in most studies analyzed. Significant between-study heterogeneity was seen, and methodological factors were a major contributor to this, and prevented further analysis of epidemiological and biological factors. This demonstrates a need for standardized protocols for conducting and reporting seroepidemiological analyses.

Pfs230, Pfs48/45, Plasmodium falciparum, gametocytes, immunity, Africa, Antibodies, Protozoan, Antigens, Protozoan, Female, Humans, Life Cycle Stages, Malaria Vaccines, Malaria, Falciparum, Male, Plasmodium falciparum
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Frontiers in Immunology
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Frontiers Media
Medical Research Council (MR/N00227X/1)
MM and AK are funded via IDeAL Ph.D. Studentships awarded by the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme through funding from the DELTAS Africa programme via the Wellcome Trust (107769). TB was supported by a grant from The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (Vidi fellowship; NWO Project 016.158.306). AB was funded by the MRC (New Investigator Research Grant; award number MR/N00227X/1) and the University of Cambridge JRG. PB and MK were supported by a Wellcome Trust grant (107499).