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Cross-stage immunity for malaria vaccine development

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journal contribution
posted on 19.08.2021, 10:13 by Wiebke Nahrendorf, Anja Scholzen, Robert W Sauerwein, Jean Langhorne
A vaccine against malaria is urgently needed for control and eventual eradication. Different approaches are pursued to induce either sterile immunity directed against pre-erythrocytic parasites or to mimic naturally acquired immunity by controlling blood-stage parasite densities and disease severity. Pre-erythrocytic and blood-stage malaria vaccines are often seen as opposing tactics, but it is likely that they have to be combined into a multi-stage malaria vaccine to be optimally safe and effective. Since many antigenic targets are shared between liver- and blood-stage parasites, malaria vaccines have the potential to elicit cross-stage protection with immune mechanisms against both stages complementing and enhancing each other. Here we discuss evidence from pre-erythrocytic and blood-stage subunit and whole parasite vaccination approaches that show that protection against malaria is not necessarily stage-specific. Parasites arresting at late liver-stages especially, can induce powerful blood-stage immunity, and similarly exposure to blood-stage parasites can afford pre-erythrocytic immunity. The incorporation of a blood-stage component into a multi-stage malaria vaccine would hence not only combat breakthrough infections in the blood should the pre-erythrocytic component fail to induce sterile protection, but would also actively enhance the pre-erythrocytic potency of this vaccine. We therefore advocate that future studies should concentrate on the identification of cross-stage protective malaria antigens, which can empower multi-stage malaria vaccine development.