Merozoite surface protein-1 (MSP-1) of malaria parasites has been extensively studied as a malaria vaccine candidate and the antibody response to this protein is an important indicator of protective immunity to malaria. Mangaluru city and its surrounding areas in southwestern India are endemic to malaria with Plasmodium vivax being the most widespread and prevalent species although P. falciparum also frequently infects. However, no information is available on the level of protective immunity in this population. In this regard, a prospective hospital-based study was performed in malarial patients to assess antibody responses against the 19-kDa C-terminal portion of P. vivax and P. falciparum MSP-1 (MSP-119). Serum samples from 51 healthy endemic controls and 267 infected individuals were collected and anti-MSP-119 antibody levels were analyzed by ELISA. The possible association between the antibody responses and morbidity parameters such as malarial anemia and thrombocytopenia was investigated. Among the 267 infected cases, 144 had P. vivax and 123 had P. falciparum infections. Significant levels of anti-MSP-119 antibody were observed both in P. vivax (123/144; 85.4%) and P. falciparum (108/123; 87.9%) infected individuals. In both type of infections, the major antibody isotypes were IgG1 and IgG3. The IgG levels were found to be increased in patients with severe anemia and thrombocytopenia. The antibody levels were also higher in infected individuals who had several previous infections, although antibodies produced during previous infections were short lived. The predominance of cytophilic anti-MSP-119 IgG1 and IgG3 antibodies suggests the possibility of a dual role of Pv MSP-119 and Pf MSP-119 during malarial immunity and pathogenesis.
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