Based on Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) from strain 3D7, the malaria vaccine candidate FMP2.1/AS02A showed strain-specific efficacy in a Phase 2 clinical trial in 400 Malian children randomized to 3 doses of the AMA1 vaccine candidate or control rabies vaccine on days 0, 30 and 60. A subset of 10 Pf(-) (i.e., no clinical malaria episodes) AMA1 recipients, 11 Pf(+) (clinical malaria episodes with parasites with 3D7 or Fab9-type AMA1 cluster 1 loop [c1L]) AMA1 recipients, and 10 controls were randomly chosen for analysis. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) isolated on days 0, 90 and 150 were stimulated with full-length 3D7 AMA1 and c1L from strains 3D7 (c3D7) and Fab9 (cFab9). Production of IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-2, and/or IL-17A was analyzed by flow cytometry. Among AMA1 recipients, 18/21 evaluable samples stimulated with AMA1 demonstrated increased IFN-γ, TNF-α, and IL-2 derived from CD4(+) T cells by day 150 compared to 0/10 in the control group (p<0.0001). Among AMA1 vaccines, CD4(+) cells expressing both TNF-α and IL-2 were increased in Pf(-) children compared to Pf(+) children. When PBMCs were stimulated with c3D7 and cFab9 separately, 4/18 AMA1 recipients with an AMA1-specific CD4(+) response had a significant response to one or both c1L. This suggests that recognition of the AMA1 antigen is not dependent upon c1L alone. In summary, AMA1-specific T cell responses were notably increased in children immunized with an AMA1-based vaccine candidate. The role of CD4(+)TNF-α(+)IL-2(+)-expressing T cells in vaccine-induced strain-specific protection against clinical malaria requires further exploration. Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT00460525.
Keywords: AMA1; FMP2.1/AS02(A); Malaria; Multifunctional; Pediatric; T cell.
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