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BackgroundAt a World Health Organization (WHO) sponsored meeting it was concluded that there is an urgent need for a reference preparation that contains antibodies against malaria antigens in order to support serology studies and vaccine development. It was proposed that this reference would take the form of a lyophilized serum or plasma pool from a malaria-endemic area. In response, an immunoassay standard, comprising defibrinated human plasma has been prepared and evaluated in a collaborative study.ResultsA pool of human plasma from a malaria endemic region was collected from 140 single plasma donations selected for reactivity to Plasmodium falciparum apical membrane antigen-1 (AMA-1) and merozoite surface proteins (MSP-119, MSP-142, MSP-2 and MSP-3). This pool was defibrinated, filled and freeze dried into a single batch of ampoules to yield a stable source of naturally occurring antibodies to P. falciparum. The preparation was evaluated by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in a collaborative study with sixteen participants from twelve different countries. This anti-malaria human serum preparation (NIBSC Code: 10/198) was adopted by the WHO Expert Committee on Biological Standardization (ECBS) in October 2014, as the first WHO reference reagent for anti-malaria (Plasmodium falciparum) human serum with an assigned arbitrary unitage of 100 units (U) per ampoule.ConclusionAnalysis of the reference reagent in a collaborative study has demonstrated the benefit of this preparation for the reduction in inter- and intra-laboratory variability in ELISA. Whilst locally sourced pools are regularly use for harmonization both within and between a few laboratories, the presence of a WHO-endorsed reference reagent should enable optimal harmonization of malaria serological assays either by direct use of the reference reagent or calibration of local standards against this WHO reference. The intended uses of this reference reagent, a multivalent preparation, are (1) to allow cross-comparisons of results of vaccine trials performed in different centres/with different products; (2) to facilitate standardization and harmonization of immunological assays used in epidemiology research; and (3) to allow optimization and validation of immunological assays used in malaria vaccine development.

Original publication




Journal article


Malaria journal

Publication Date





Bacteriology Division, MHRA-NIBSC, South Mimms, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, EN6 3QG, UK.


Collaborative study group, Humans, Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria, Falciparum, Membrane Proteins, Protozoan Proteins, Antibodies, Protozoan, Antigens, Protozoan, Immunoassay, Serologic Tests, Freeze Drying, Reference Standards, World Health Organization