Ring-infected erythrocytes are the predominant asexual stage in the peripheral circulation but are rarely investigated in the context of acquired immunity against Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Here we compare antibody-dependent phagocytosis of ring-infected parasite cultures in samples from a controlled human malaria infection (CHMI) study (NCT02739763). Protected volunteers did not develop clinical symptoms, maintained parasitaemia below a predefined threshold of 500 parasites/μl and were not treated until the end of the study. Antibody-dependent phagocytosis of both ring-infected and uninfected erythrocytes from parasite cultures was strongly correlated with protection. A surface proteomic analysis revealed the presence of merozoite proteins including erythrocyte binding antigen-175 and -140 on ring-infected and uninfected erythrocytes, providing an additional antibody-mediated protective mechanism for their activity beyond invasion-inhibition. Competition phagocytosis assays support the hypothesis that merozoite antigens are the key mediators of this functional activity. Targeting ring-stage parasites may contribute to the control of parasitaemia and prevention of clinical malaria.
Centre for Infectious Diseases, Heidelberg University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany.
CHMI-SIKA Study Team, Erythrocytes, Animals, Humans, Parasites, Plasmodium falciparum, Parasitemia, Malaria, Malaria, Falciparum, Antibodies, Protozoan, Antigens, Protozoan, Proteomics, Phagocytosis, Merozoites