Background: Naturally acquired immunity to malaria across the globe varies in intensity and protective powers. Many of the studies on immunity are from hyperendemic regions of Africa. In Asia, particularly in India, there are unique opportunities for exploring and understanding malaria immunity relative to host age, co-occurrence of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax infections, varying travel history, and varying disease severity. Variation in immunity in hospital settings is particularly understudied.
Methods: A US NIH ICEMR (South Asia) team examined the level of immunity in an Indian malaria patient population visiting or admitted to Goa Medical College and Hospital in Goa, India. Sera from 200 patients of different ages, in different seasons, infected with P. falciparum or P. vivax or both species, and with different clinical severity were applied to an established protein array system with over 1000 P. falciparum and P. vivax antigens. Differential binding of patient IgG to different antigens was measured.
Results: Even though Goa itself has much more P. vivax than P. falciparum, IgG reactivity towards P. falciparum antigens was very strong and comparable to that seen in regions of the world with high P. falciparum endemicity. Of 248 seropositive P. falciparum antigens, the strongest were VAR, MSP10, HSP70, PTP5, AP2, AMA1, and SYN6. In P. vivax patients, ETRAMPs, MSPs, and ApiAP2, sexual stage antigen s16, RON3 were the strongest IgG binders. Both P. falciparum and P. vivax patients also revealed strong binding to new antigens with unknown functions. Seropositives showed antigens unique to the young (HSP40, ACS6, GCVH) or to non-severe malaria (MSP3.8 and PHIST).
Conclusion: Seroreactivity at a major hospital in Southwest India reveals antibody responses to P. falciparum and P. vivax in a low malaria transmission region with much migration. In addition to markers of transmission, the data points to specific leads for possible protective immunity against severe disease. Several, but not all, key antigens overlap with work from different settings around the globe and from other parts of India. Together, these studies confidently help define antigens with the greatest potential chance of universal application for surveillance and possibly for disease protection, in many different parts of India and the world.
Keywords: Malaria exposure; Plasmodium falciparum; Plasmodium vivax; Protective immunity; Protein arrays; Seroreactive antigens.