Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND:Iron deficiency (ID) and malaria are common causes of ill-health and disability among children living in sub-Saharan Africa. Although iron is critical for the acquisition of humoral immunity, little is known about the effects of ID on antibody responses to Plasmodium falciparum malaria. METHODS:The study included 1,794 Kenyan and Ugandan children aged 0-7 years. We measured biomarkers of iron and inflammation, and antibodies to P falciparum antigens including apical merozoite antigen 1 (anti-AMA-1) and merozoite surface antigen 1 (anti-MSP-1) in cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. RESULTS:The overall prevalence of ID was 31%. ID was associated with lower anti-AMA-1 and anti-MSP-1 antibody levels in pooled analyses adjusted for age, gender, study site, inflammation and P falciparum parasitemia (adjusted mean difference on a log-transformed scale (β) -0.46; 95 CI -0.66, -0.25 P <0.0001; β -0.33; 95 CI -0.50, -0.16 P <0.0001, respectively). Additional covariates for malaria exposure index, previous malaria episodes, and time since last malaria episode, were available for individual cohorts. Meta-analysis was used to allow for these adjustments giving β -0.34; -0.52, -0.16 for anti-AMA-1 antibodies and β -0.26; -0.41, -0.11 for anti-MSP-1 antibodies. Low transferrin saturation was similarly associated with reduced anti-AMA1 antibody levels. Lower AMA-1 and MSP-1 specific antibody levels persisted over time in iron-deficient children. CONCLUSIONS:Reduced levels of P. falciparum-specific antibodies in iron-deficient children might reflect impaired acquisition of immunity to malaria and/or reduced malaria exposure. Strategies to prevent and treat ID may influence antibody responses to malaria for children living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original publication




Journal article


Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America

Publication Date



Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Centre for Geographic Medicine Coast, KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme, Kilifi, Kenya.