Malaria Strains Appear to Gang Up Against Immune Defenses

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Science  20 Feb 1998:
Vol. 279, Issue 5354, pp. 1136
DOI: 10.1126/science.279.5354.1136

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New work reported on page 1173 suggests that two strains of the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, have evolved a surprising tactic to defeat immune defenses: cooperation. While the researchers found that certain immune cells kill cells displaying fragments of two variants of P. falciparum's so-called circumsporozoite protein, they also found that if protein fragments from one of the variants were present in the culture, the immune cells were unable to kill the parasites bearing the other variant. The results have sobering implications for vaccine development, because a vaccine containing a protein fragment from one strain of malaria parasite could suppress the immune response to a related strain.