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Epidemiological observations suggest that T cell immunity may be suppressed in malaria-endemic areas. In vitro studies, animal models, and limited data in humans link immunosuppression with malaria, malnutrition, and other parasitic infections. However, there are no data to determine whether malaria-induced immunosuppression is significant in the long-term, or relative data comparing it with other factors in malaria-endemic areas, so as to measure the impact of malaria, other parasitic disease, nutritional status, age. and location on the acquisition and longevity of IFN-gamma responses in children in Kenya. We studied these factors in two cohorts of 1- to 6-year-old children in a malaria-endemic area. T cell responses were induced by vaccination in one cohort, and acquired as a result of natural exposure in a second cohort. Serial ELISPOT assays conducted over a 1-year period measured the induction and kinetics of IFN-gamma production in response to the malaria Ag thrombospondin-related adhesion protein. Induced responses in both cohorts and the longevity of response in the vaccinated cohort were fitted to potential explanatory variables. Parasitemia was prospectively associated with reduced IFN-gamma-producing T cells in both cohorts (by 15-25%), and both parasitemia and episodes of febrile malaria were associated with 19 and 31% greater attrition of T cell responses, respectively. Malaria may reduce the efficacy vaccinations such as bacillus Calmette-Guérin and investigational T cell-inducing vaccines, and may delay the acquisition of immunity following natural exposure to malaria and other pathogens.

Original publication




Journal article


J Immunol

Publication Date





4193 - 4201


Analysis of Variance, Cells, Cultured, Child, Child, Preschool, Double-Blind Method, Humans, Infant, Interferon-gamma, Logistic Models, Lymphocyte Activation, Malaria Vaccines, Malaria, Falciparum, Multivariate Analysis, Parasitemia, Regression Analysis, T-Lymphocyte Subsets