Human unconventional T cells in Plasmodium falciparum infection

Semin Immunopathol. 2020 Jun;42(3):265-277. doi: 10.1007/s00281-020-00791-3. Epub 2020 Feb 19.


Malaria is an old scourge of humankind and has a large negative impact on the economic development of affected communities. Recent success in malaria control and reduction of mortality seems to have stalled emphasizing that our current intervention tools need to be complemented by malaria vaccines. Different populations of unconventional T cells such as mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells, invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells and γδ T cells are gaining attention in the field of malaria immunology. Significant advances in our basic understanding of unconventional T cell biology in rodent malaria models have been made, however, their roles in humans during malaria are less clear. Unconventional T cells are abundant in skin, gut and liver tissues, and long-lasting expansions and functional alterations were observed upon malaria infection in malaria naïve and malaria pre-exposed volunteers. Here, we review the current understanding of involvement of unconventional T cells in anti-Plasmodium falciparum immunity and highlight potential future research avenues.

Keywords: CHMI; MAIT cells; Malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; Unconventional T cells; Vaccination; γδ T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Malaria Vaccines*
  • Malaria*
  • Malaria, Falciparum*
  • Mucosal-Associated Invariant T Cells*
  • Plasmodium falciparum


  • Malaria Vaccines