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Age of exposure and immunity to malaria in infants

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Infants immunity to malaria

An EU-funded project studied the mechanisms behind infant immunity to malaria for more efficient administration of new vaccines.

Health

Malaria is a major killer of children in the developing world. Studies have shown that the age of initial exposure to the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite can be important for the development of naturally acquired immunity (NAI). Results indicate that exposure to P. falciparum by infants younger than five months of age does not provide immunity, while exposure to the parasite after five months of age does result in NAI. The goal of the 'Age of exposure and immunity to malaria in infants' (Malaria Age Exposure) initiative was to shed light on the mechanisms behind NAI in infants. Researchers combined data from different scientific fields during their study of a group of mothers and young children living in an area of Africa where malaria is endemic. The information was used to determine the best time for administering candidate malaria vaccines or other control tools during infancy. Data from the Malaria Age Exposure project has important implications for other international research projects and initiatives that are working on the development of relevant vaccines or control tools. Therefore, the project has the potential to help prevent thousands of children in the developing world from falling victim to this potentially lethal disease.

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