Reduced blood-stage malaria growth and immune correlates in humans following RH5 vaccination

Med (N Y). 2021 Jun 11;2(6):701-719.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.medj.2021.03.014.


Background: Development of an effective vaccine against the pathogenic blood-stage infection of human malaria has proved challenging, and no candidate vaccine has affected blood-stage parasitemia following controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) with blood-stage Plasmodium falciparum.

Methods: We undertook a phase I/IIa clinical trial in healthy adults in the United Kingdom of the RH5.1 recombinant protein vaccine, targeting the P. falciparum reticulocyte-binding protein homolog 5 (RH5), formulated in AS01B adjuvant. We assessed safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy against blood-stage CHMI. Trial registered at, NCT02927145.

Findings: The RH5.1/AS01B formulation was administered using a range of RH5.1 protein vaccine doses (2, 10, and 50 μg) and was found to be safe and well tolerated. A regimen using a delayed and fractional third dose, in contrast to three doses given at monthly intervals, led to significantly improved antibody response longevity over ∼2 years of follow-up. Following primary and secondary CHMI of vaccinees with blood-stage P. falciparum, a significant reduction in parasite growth rate was observed, defining a milestone for the blood-stage malaria vaccine field. We show that growth inhibition activity measured in vitro using purified immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody strongly correlates with in vivo reduction of the parasite growth rate and also identify other antibody feature sets by systems serology, including the plasma anti-RH5 IgA1 response, that are associated with challenge outcome.

Conclusions: Our data provide a new framework to guide rational design and delivery of next-generation vaccines to protect against malaria disease.

Funding: This study was supported by USAID, UK MRC, Wellcome Trust, NIAID, and the NIHR Oxford-BRC.

Keywords: CHMI; Plasmodium falciparum; RH5; blood-stage; clinical trial; malaria; systems serology; vaccine.

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