Associations between antibodies to a panel of Plasmodium falciparum specific antigens and response to sub-optimal antimalarial therapy in Kampala, Uganda

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e52571. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0052571. Epub 2012 Dec 19.


Background: Antibodies are important in the control of blood stage Plasmodium falciparum infection. It is unclear which antibody responses are responsible for, or even associated with protection, partly due to confounding by heterogeneous exposure. Assessment of response to partially effective antimalarial therapy, which requires the host to assist in clearing parasites, offers an opportunity to measure protection independent of exposure.

Methods: A cohort of children aged 1-10 years in Kampala, Uganda were treated with amodiaquine+sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine for uncomplicated malaria. Serum samples from the time of malaria diagnosis and 14 days later were analyzed for total IgG to 8 P. falciparum antigens using a quantitative indirect ELISA. Associations between antibody levels and risk of treatment failure were estimated using Cox proportional hazard regression.

Results: Higher levels of antibodies to apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA-1), but to none of the other 7 antigens were significantly associated with protection against treatment failure (HR 0.57 per 10-fold increase in antibody level, CI 0.41-0.79, p = 0.001). Protection increased consistently across the entire range of antibody levels.

Conclusions: Measurement of antibody levels to AMA-1 at the time of malaria may offer a quantitative biomarker of blood stage immunity to P. falciparum, a tool which is currently lacking.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Protozoan / immunology*
  • Antibody Formation / immunology
  • Antigens, Protozoan / immunology*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malaria, Falciparum / diagnosis
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / immunology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Species Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uganda


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Antimalarials