Longevity of the immune response and memory to blood-stage malaria infection

A. H. Achtman, P. C. Bull, R. Stephens, J. Langhorne

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Immunity to malaria develops slowly with protection against the parasite lagging behind protection against disease symptoms. The data on the longevity of protective immune responses are sparse. However, studies of antibody responses associated with protection reveal that they consist of a short- and a long-lived component. Compared with the antibody levels observed in other infection and immunization systems, the levels of the short-lived antibody compartment drop below the detectable threshold with unusual rapidity. The prevalence of long-lived antibodies is comparable to that seen after bacterial and protozoan infections. There is even less available data concerning T cell longevity in malaria infection, but what there is seems to indicate that T cell memory is short in the absence of persistent antigen. In general, the degree and duration of parasite persistence represent a major factor determining how immune response longevity and protection correlate. The predilection for short-lived immune responses in malaria infection could be caused by a number of mechanisms resulting from the interplay of normal regulatory mechanisms of the immune system and immune evasion by the parasite. In conclusion, it appears that the parasite-host relationship has developed to favor some short-lived responses, which allow the host to survive while allowing the parasite to persist. Anti-malarial immune responses present a complex picture, and many aspects of regulation and longevity of the response require further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-102
Number of pages32
JournalCurrent topics in microbiology and immunology
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology (medical)


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