Protective immunity against malaria can be obtained by vaccination with irradiated sporozoites. The protective antigens known as circumsporozoite (CS) proteins, are polypeptides that cover the surface membrane of the parasite. The CS proteins contain species-specific immunodominant epitopes formed by tandem repeated sequences of amino acids. Here it is shown that the dominant epitope of Plasmodium falciparum is contained in the synthetic dodecapeptide Asn-Ala-Asn-Pro-Asn-Ala-Asn-Pro-Asn-Ala-Pro or (NANP)3. Monoclonal antibodies and most or all polyclonal human antibodies to the sporozoites react with (NANP)3, and polyclonal antibodies raised against the synthetic peptide (NANP)3 react with the surface of the parasite and neutralize its infectivity. Since (NANP)3 repeats are present in CS proteins of P. falciparum from many parts of the world, this epitope is a logical target for vaccine development.

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