SARS-CoV-2 and Plasmodium falciparum common immunodominant regions may explain low COVID-19 incidence in the malaria-endemic belt

New Microbes New Infect. 2020 Nov:38:100817. doi: 10.1016/j.nmni.2020.100817. Epub 2020 Nov 19.


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused significant morbidity and mortality and new cases are on the rise globally, yet malaria-endemic areas report statistically significant lower incidences. We identified potential shared targets for an immune response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by immune determinants' shared identities with P. falciparum using the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis Resource Immune 9.0 browser tool. Probable cross-reactivity is suggested through HLA-A∗02:01 and subsequent CD8+ T-cell activation. The apparent immunodominant epitope conservation between SARS-CoV-2 (N and open reading frame (ORF) 1ab) and P. falciparum thrombospondin-related anonymous protein (TRAP) may underlie the low COVID-19 incidence in the malaria-endemic zone by providing immunity against virus infection to those previously infected with Plasmodium. Additionally, we hypothesize that the shared epitopes which lie within antigens that aid in the establishment of the P. falciparum erythrocyte invasion may be an alternative route for SARS-CoV-2 via the erythrocyte CD147 receptor, although this remains to be proven.

Keywords: CD147 receptor; Plasmodium falciparum; SARS-CoV-2; epitope; homology.