Background: RTS,S/AS01(E) is the lead candidate malaria vaccine and confers pre-erythrocytic immunity. Vaccination may therefore impact acquired immunity to blood-stage malaria parasites after natural infection.
Methods: We measured, by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, antibodies to 4 Plasmodium falciparum merozoite antigens (AMA-1, MSP-1(42), EBA-175, and MSP-3) and by growth inhibitory activity (GIA) using 2 parasite clones (FV0 and 3D7) at 4 times on 860 children who were randomized to receive with RTS,S/AS01(E) or a control vaccine.
Results: Antibody concentrations to AMA-1, EBA-175, and MSP-1(42) decreased with age during the first year of life, then increased to 32 months of age. Anti-MSP-3 antibody concentrations gradually increased, and GIA gradually decreased up to 32 months. Vaccination with RTS,S/AS01(E) resulted in modest reductions in AMA-1, EBA-175, MSP-1(42), and MSP-3 antibody concentrations and no significant change in GIA. Increasing anti-merozoite antibody concentrations and GIA were prospectively associated with increased risk of clinical malaria.
Conclusions: Vaccination with RTS,S/AS01E reduces exposure to blood-stage parasites and, thus, reduces anti-merozoite antigen antibody concentrations. However, in this study, these antibodies were not correlates of clinical immunity to malaria. Instead, heterogeneous exposure led to confounded, positive associations between increasing antibody concentration and increasing risk of clinical malaria.