Cerebral Plasmodium falciparum malaria: The role of PfEMP1 in its pathogenesis and immunity, and PfEMP1-based vaccines to prevent it

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Malaria, a mosquito-borne infectious disease caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium continues to be a major health problem worldwide. The unicellular Plasmodium-parasites have the unique capacity to infect and replicate within host erythrocytes. By expressing variant surface antigens Plasmodium falciparum has evolved to avoid protective immune responses; as a result in endemic areas anti-malaria immunity develops gradually over many years of multiple and repeated infections. We are studying the role of Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) expressed by asexual stages of P. falciparum responsible for the pathogenicity of severe malaria. The immunopathology of falciparum malaria has been linked to cyto-adhesion of infected erythrocytes to specific host receptors. A greater appreciation of the PfEMP1 molecules important for the development of protective immunity and immunopathology is a prerequisite for the rational discovery and development of a safe and protective anti-disease malaria vaccine. Here we review the role of ICAM-1 and EPCR receptor adhering falciparum-parasites in the development of severe malaria; we discuss our current research to understand the factors involved in the pathogenesis of cerebral malaria and the feasibility of developing a vaccine targeted specifically to prevent this disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalImmunological Reviews
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)230-252
Publication statusPublished - 2020

    Research areas

  • antibodies, cerebral malaria, immunity, PfEMP1, Plasmodium falciparum, vaccine

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