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A longitudinal cohort study of malaria exposure and changing serostatus in a malaria endemic area of rural Tanzania

Ryan A. Simmons, Leonard Mboera, Marie Lynn Miranda, Alison Morris, Gillian Stresman, Elizabeth L. Turner, Randall Kramer, Chris Drakeley and Wendy P. O’Meara



Background- Measurements of anti-malarial antibodies are increasingly used as a proxy of transmission intensity. Most serological surveys are based on the use of cross-sectional data that, when age-stratified, approximates historical patterns of transmission within a population. Comparatively few studies leverage longitudinal data to explicitly relate individual infection events with subsequent antibody responses.

Methods -The occurrence of seroconversion and seroreversion events for two Plasmodium falciparum asexual stage antigens (MSP-1 and AMA-1) was examined using three annual measurements of 691 individuals from a cohort of individuals in a malaria-endemic area of rural east-central Tanzania. Mixed-effect logistic regression models were employed to determine factors associated with changes in serostatus over time.

Results - While the expected population-level relationship between seroprevalence and disease incidence was observed, on an individual level the relationship between individual infections and the antibody response was complex. MSP-1 antibody responses were more dynamic in response to the occurrence and resolution of infection events than AMA-1, while the latter was more correlated with consecutive infections. The MSP-1 antibody response to an observed infection seemed to decay faster over time than the corresponding AMA-1 response. Surprisingly, there was no evidence of an age effect on the occurrence of a conversion or reversion event.

Conclusions - While the population-level results concur with previously published sero-epidemiological surveys, the individual-level results highlight the more complex relationship between detected infections and antibody dynamics than can be analysed using cross-sectional data. The longitudinal analysis of serological data may provide a powerful tool for teasing apart the complex relationship between infection events and the corresponding immune response, thereby improving the ability to rapidly assess the success or failure of malaria control programmes.

Serology, AMA-1, MSP-1, Malaria
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Publication date: 
Tuesday, July 18, 2017