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Young infants are less susceptible to severe episodes of malaria but the targets and mechanisms of protection are not clear. Cord blood antibodies may play an important role in mediating protection but many studies have examined their association with the outcome of infection or non-severe malaria. Here, we investigated whether cord blood IgG to Plasmodium falciparum merozoite antigens and antibody-mediated effector functions were associated with reduced odds of developing severe malaria at different time points during the first year of life. We conducted a case-control study of well-defined severe falciparum malaria nested within a longitudinal birth cohort of Kenyan children. We measured cord blood total IgG levels against five recombinant merozoite antigens and antibody function in the growth inhibition activity and neutrophil antibody-dependent respiratory burst assays. We also assessed the decay of maternal antibodies during the first 6months of life. The mean antibody half-life range was 2.51months (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.19-2.92) to 4.91months (95% CI: 4.47-6.07). The rate of decline of maternal antibodies was inversely proportional to the starting concentration. The functional assay of antibody-dependent respiratory burst activity predicted significantly reduced odds of developing severe malaria during the first 6months of life (Odds ratio (OR) 0.07, 95% CI: 0.007-0.74, P=0.007). Identification of the targets of antibodies mediating antibody-dependent respiratory burst activity could contribute to the development of malaria vaccines that protect against severe episodes of malaria in early infancy.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Parasitol

Publication Date





153 - 162


Antibody, Cord blood, Merozoite, Severe malaria, Antibodies, Protozoan, Antigens, Protozoan, Case-Control Studies, Cohort Studies, Female, Fetal Blood, Humans, Immunoglobulin G, Infant, Kenya, Malaria, Falciparum, Male, Plasmodium falciparum, Respiratory Burst, Risk Factors