Impact of Placental Malaria on Neonatal Tolerance and Immunity to Malaria

Investigator: Mary Prahl, MD
Sponsor: Infectious Diseases Society of America

Location(s): Uganda


Dr. Prahl's research will investigate the immunologic consequences of prenatal exposure to malaria using samples and data obtained from a randomized trial of chemoprevention during pregnancy and early childhood underway in Tororo, Uganda, a region of exceptionally high malaria exposure intensity.

Dr. Prahl hypothesizes that maternal exposure of malaria antigens in utero can induce immune tolerance in infants interfering with the development of childhood antimalarial immunity. Using cord blood and placental biopsy samples, she will assess the relationship between in utero exposure to malaria, the frequency and suppressive function of T cells, cytokine production and the cellular immune response to malaria in neonates.

Demonstration of fetal immune tolerance to malaria would support the adoption of improved strategies to combat childhood malaria, including aggressive chemoprevention during pregnancy and early childhood to reduce exposure fo the developing immune system to malaria antigens. Such a finding would also be of great importance for infant malaria vaccination strategies, which may need to be combined with chemoprevention for maximum effectiveness.