A model of parity-dependent immunity to placental malaria
Plasmodium falciparum placental infection during pregnancy is harmful for both mother and child. Protection from placental infection is parity-dependent, that is, acquired over consecutive pregnancies. However, the infection status of the placenta can only be assessed at delivery. Here, to better understand the mechanism underlying this parity-dependence, we fitted a model linking malaria dynamics within the general population to observed placental histology. Our results suggest that immunity resulting in less prolonged infection is a greater determinant of the parity-specific patterns than immunity that prevents placental sequestration. Our results also suggest the time when maternal blood first flows into the placenta is a high-risk period. Therefore, preventative strategies implementable before or early in pregnancy, such as insecticide-treated net usage in women of child-bearing age or any future vaccine, could substantially reduce the number of women who experience placental infection.