Science for Health
We study the immune response to the malaria parasite, components of this response involved in protection against infection and in pathology, and parasite antigens that may stimulate these responses. For most of our work we study mouse models, but where possible also human immune reponses to Plasmodium falciparum and P. vivax.
The innate immune system is an important component of the early host response to the blood stages of the malaria parasite. We have shown that a population of inflammatory monocytes is produced in the bone marrow in response to infection, and contributes to killing and removal of parasites. However, the innate response is not sufficient to eliminate an infection, and long-term protective immunity to re-infection depends on B cells and antibodies. Long-lived responses do develop after a single malaria infection to some antigens, but it is thought that protective immunity is directed towards variant antigens on the infected red blood cells, which may induce only short-lived or ineffective antibody responses. There is a large multigene family in rodent and human malaria parasites that codes for a set of variant proteins. We are investigating whether these are expressed on the surface of infected red blood cells and are the targets of a protective immune response.
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