The development of an effective malaria vaccine has been hampered by the genetic diversity of commonly used target antigens. This diversity has led to concerns about allele-specific immunity limiting the effectiveness of vaccines. Despite extensive genetic diversity of circumsporozoite protein (CS), the most successful malaria vaccine is RTS/S, a monovalent CS vaccine. By use of massively parallel pyrosequencing, we evaluated the diversity of CS haplotypes across the T-cell epitopes in parasites from Lilongwe, Malawi. We identified 57 unique parasite haplotypes from 100 participants. By use of ecological and molecular indexes of diversity, we saw no difference in the diversity of CS haplotypes between adults and children. We saw evidence of weak variant-specific selection within this region of CS, suggesting naturally acquired immunity does induce variant-specific selection on CS. Therefore, the impact of CS vaccines on variant frequencies with widespread implementation of vaccination requires further study.
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