Transmission-reducing immunity is inversely related to age in Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte carriers.

C. J. Drakeley, J. T. Bousema, N. I. J. Akim, K. Teelen, W. Roeffen, A. H. Lensen, M. Bolmer, W. Eling& R. W. Sauerwein. Parasite Immunology 2006, 28, 185–190
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Immunity to the sexual stages of Plasmodium falciparum is induced during natural infections and can significantly reduce the transmission of parasites to mosquitoes (transmission reducing activity; TRA) but little is known about how these responses develop with increasing age/exposure to malaria. Routinely TRA is measured in the standard membrane feeding assay (SMFA). Sera were collected from a total of 199 gametocyte carriers (median age 4 years, quartiles 2 and 9 years) near Ifakara, Tanzania; 128 samples were tested in the SMFA and generated TRA data classified as a reduction of > 50% and > 90% of transmission. TRA of > 50% was highest in young children (aged 1–2) with a significant decline with age (. 2 trend = 5·79, P = 0·016) and in logistic regression was associated with prevalence of antibodies to both Pfs230 and Pfs48/45 (OR 4·03, P = 0·011 and OR 2·43 P = 0·059, respectively). A TRA of > 90% reduction in transmission was not age related but was associated with antibodies to Pfs48/45 (OR 2·36, P = 0·055). Our data confirm that antibodies are an important component of naturally induced TRA. However, whilst a similar but small proportion of individuals at all ages have TRA > 90%, the gradual deterioration of TRA > 50% with age suggests decreased antibody concentration or affinity. This may be due to decreased exposure to gametocytes, probably as a result of increased asexual and/or gametocyte specific immunity.