Dynamics of the antibody response to Plasmodium falciparum infection in African children

J Infect Dis. 2014 Oct 1;210(7):1115-22. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiu219. Epub 2014 Apr 8.


Background: Acquired immune responses to malaria have widely been perceived to be short-lived, with previously immune individuals losing immunity when they move from malaria-endemic areas. However long-lived Plasmodium falciparum-specific antibody responses lasting for an individual's lifetime are frequently observed.

Methods: We fit mathematical models of the dynamics of antibody titers to P. falciparum antigens from longitudinal cohort studies of African children to estimate the half-lives of circulating immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies and IgG antibody-secreting cells (ASCs).

Results: Comparison of antibody responses in the younger Ghanaian cohort and the older Gambian cohort suggests that young children are less able to generate the long-lived ASCs necessary to maintain the circulating antibodies that may provide protection against reinfection. Antibody responses in African children can be described by a model 15 including both short-lived ASCs (half-life range, 2-10 days), which are responsible for boosting antibody titers following infection, and long-lived ASCs (half-life range, 3-9 years), which are responsible for maintaining sustained humoral responses.

Conclusions: The rapid decay of antibodies following exposure to malaria and the maintenance of sustained antibody responses can be explained in terms of populations of short-lived and long-lived ASCs.

Keywords: Plasmodium falciparum; antibody; immunity; malaria; model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood*
  • Antibody Formation
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Gambia
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Malaria, Falciparum / immunology*
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Immunoglobulin G