Published: December 1, 2022
Kassa, M.W., Hasang, W., Barateiro, A. et al. Acquisition of antibodies to Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax antigens in pregnant women living in a low malaria transmission area of Brazil. Malar J 21, 360 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-022-04402-4
Pregnant women have increased susceptibility to Plasmodium falciparum malaria and acquire protective antibodies over successive pregnancies. Most studies that investigated malaria antibody responses in pregnant women are from high transmission areas in sub-Saharan Africa, while reports from Latin America are scarce and inconsistent. The present study sought to explore the development of antibodies against P. falciparum and Plasmodium vivax antigens in pregnant women living in a low transmission area in the Brazilian Amazon.
In a prospective cohort study, plasma samples from 408 pregnant women (of whom 111 were infected with P. falciparum, 96 had infections with P. falciparum and P. vivax, and 201 had no Plasmodium infection) were used to measure antibody levels. Levels of IgG and opsonizing antibody to pregnancy-specific variant surface antigens (VSAs) on infected erythrocytes (IEs), 10 recombinant VAR2CSA Duffy binding like (DBL domains), 10 non-pregnancy-specific P. falciparum merozoite antigens, and 10 P. vivax antigens were measured by flow cytometry, ELISA, and multiplex assays. Antibody levels and seropositivity among the groups were compared.
Antibodies to VSAs on P. falciparum IEs were generally low but were higher in currently infected women and women with multiple P. falciparum episodes over pregnancy. Many women (21%-69%) had antibodies against each individual VAR2CSA DBL domain, and antibodies to DBLs correlated with each other (r ≥ 0.55, p < 0.0001), but not with antibody to VSA or history of infection. Infection with either malaria species was associated with higher seropositivity rate for antibodies against P. vivax proteins, adjusted odds ratios (95% CI) ranged from 5.6 (3.2, 9.7), p < 0.0001 for PVDBPII-Sal1 to 15.7 (8.3, 29.7), p < 0.0001 for PvTRAg_2.
Pregnant Brazilian women had low levels of antibodies to pregnancy-specific VSAs that increased with exposure. They frequently recognized both VAR2CSA DBL domains and P. vivax antigens, but only the latter varied with infection. Apparent antibody prevalence is highly dependent on the assay platform used.