Genetic diversity and malaria vaccine design, testing and efficacy: preventing and overcoming 'vaccine resistant malaria'.
The development of effective malaria vaccines may be hindered by extensive genetic diversity in the surface proteins being employed as vaccine antigens. Understanding of the extent and dynamics of genetic diversity in vaccine antigens is needed to guide rational vaccine design and to interpret the results of vaccine efficacy trials conducted in malaria endemic areas. Molecular epidemiological, population genetic, and structural approaches are being employed to try to identify immunologically relevant polymorphism in vaccine antigens. The results of these studies will inform choices of which alleles to include in multivalent or chimeric vaccines; however, additional molecular and immuno-epidemiological studies in a variety of geographic locations will be necessary for these approaches to succeed. Alternative means of overcoming antigenic diversity are also being explored, including boosting responses to critical conserved regions of current vaccine antigens, identifying new, more conserved and less immunodominant antigens, and developing whole-organism vaccines. Continued creative application and integration of tools from multiple disciplines, including epidemiology, immunology, molecular biology, and evolutionary genetics and genomics, will likely be required to develop broadly protective vaccines against Plasmodium and other antigenically complex pathogens.
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