A model of parity-dependent immunity to placental malaria

19th March 2013
Walker PG, Griffin JT, Cairns M, Rogerson SJ, van Eijk AM, ter Kuile F, Ghani AC.

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.