Towards an anti-disease malaria vaccine.
Lennartz F., Lavstsen T., Higgins MK.
Human infective parasites, such as those that cause malaria, are highly adapted to evade clearance by the immune system. In situations where they must maintain prolonged interactions with molecules of their host, they often use parasite surface protein families. These families are highly diverse to prevent immune recognition, and yet, to promote parasite survival, their members must retain the ability to interact with specific human receptors. One of the best understood of the parasite surface protein families is the PfEMP1 proteins of Plasmodium falciparum. These molecules cause infected erythrocytes to adhere to human receptors found on blood vessel and tissue surfaces. This protects the parasite within from clearance by the spleen and also causes symptoms of severe malaria. The PfEMP1 are exposed to the immune system during infection and are therefore excellent vaccine candidates for use in an approach to prevent severe disease. A key question, however, is whether their extensive diversity precludes them from forming components of the malaria vaccines of the future?