BACKGROUND: Malaria and helminths diseases are co-endemic in most parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Immune responses from each of these pathogens interact, and these interactions may have implications on vaccines. The GMZ2 malaria vaccine candidate is a fusion protein of Plasmodium falciparum merozoite surface protein 3 (MSP3) and glutamate rich protein (GLURP R0). GMZ2 has recently showed modest efficacy in a phase IIb multicenter trial. Here, we assessed the effect of hookworm (Necator americanus) infection and anthelmintic treatment on naturally acquired antibody responses against GMZ2 and constituent antigens.
METHODS: This longitudinal cross-sectional study was conducted in the Kintampo North Municipality of Ghana. Blood and stool samples were taken from 158 individuals (4-88 years old) infected with either P. falciparum alone (n = 59) or both hookworm and P. falciparum (n = 63) and uninfected endemic controls (n = 36). Stool hookworm infection was detected by the Kato-Katz method and PCR. Malaria parasitaemia was detected by RDT, light microscopy and P. falciparum-specific 18S rRNA gene PCR. Serum samples were obtained prior to hookworm treatment with a single dose of albendazole (400 mg) and 3 weeks (21 days) after treatment. Levels of IgG1, IgG3 and IgM against GMZ2, MSP3 and GLURP R0 were measured by ELISA and compared among the groups, before and after treatment.
RESULTS: Participants with P. falciparum and hookworm co-infection had significantly higher IgG3 levels to GMZ2 than those with only P. falciparum infection and negative control (p < 0.05) at baseline. Treatment with albendazole led to a significant reduction in IgG3 levels against both GMZ2 and GLURP R0. Similarly, IgM and IgG1 levels against MSP3 also decreased following deworming treatment.
CONCLUSION: Individuals with co-infection had higher antibody responses to GMZ2 antigen. Treatment of hookworm/malaria co-infection resulted in a reduction in antibody responses against GMZ2 and constituent antigens after albendazole treatment. Thus, hookworm infection and treatment could have a potential implication on malaria vaccine efficacy.