VAR2CSA Serology to Detect Plasmodium falciparum Transmission Patterns in Pregnancy

Emerg Infect Dis. 2019 Oct;25(10):1851-1860. doi: 10.3201/eid2510.181177.


Pregnant women constitute a promising sentinel group for continuous monitoring of malaria transmission. To identify antibody signatures of recent Plasmodium falciparum exposure during pregnancy, we dissected IgG responses against VAR2CSA, the parasite antigen that mediates placental sequestration. We used a multiplex peptide-based suspension array in 2,354 samples from pregnant women from Mozambique, Benin, Kenya, Gabon, Tanzania, and Spain. Two VAR2CSA peptides of limited polymorphism were immunogenic and targeted by IgG responses readily boosted during infection and with estimated half-lives of <2 years. Seroprevalence against these peptides reflected declines and rebounds of transmission in southern Mozambique during 2004-2012, reduced exposure associated with use of preventive measures during pregnancy, and local clusters of transmission that were missed by detection of P. falciparum infections. These data suggest that VAR2CSA serology can provide a useful adjunct for the fine-scale estimation of the malaria burden among pregnant women over time and space.