Malaria immunity in man and mosquito: insights into unsolved mysteries of a deadly infectious disease

Annu Rev Immunol. 2014;32:157-87. doi: 10.1146/annurev-immunol-032713-120220.


Malaria is a mosquito-borne disease caused by parasites of the obligate intracellular Apicomplexa phylum the most deadly of which, Plasmodium falciparum, prevails in Africa. Malaria imposes a huge health burden on the world's most vulnerable populations, claiming the lives of nearly one million children and pregnant women each year. Although there is keen interest in eradicating malaria, we do not yet have the necessary tools to meet this challenge, including an effective malaria vaccine and adequate vector control strategies. Here we review what is known about the mechanisms at play in immune resistance to malaria in both the human and mosquito hosts at each step in the parasite's complex life cycle with a view toward developing the tools that will contribute to the prevention of disease and death and, ultimately, to the goal of malaria eradication. In so doing, we hope to inspire immunologists to participate in defeating this devastating disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Culicidae / immunology*
  • Culicidae / parasitology
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Malaria / immunology*
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Plasmodium / growth & development
  • Plasmodium / immunology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology