Maternally derived antibodies are believed to protect infants against infection, but there is little direct evidence for a protective role of passively acquired antibodies against malaria. A longitudinal study of malaria infection in 143 infants was conducted in a region of southern Ghana where
Plasmodium falciparumis endemic. Infants born in the high-transmission season were less likely to become infected in the first 20 weeks of life than children born in the low-transmission season. Plasma, obtained at birth, was tested for immunoglobulin G (IgG) and IgG subclasses to P. falciparumschizonts and recombinant circumsporozoite antigen, MSP-119, MSP-2, AMA-1, and Pf155 (also called ring-infected erytrocyte surface antigen). Antibody levels at birth were not associated with resistance to malaria infection. On the contrary, antibodies at birth were positively associated with infection, indicating that high levels of maternally derived antibodies represent a marker for intensity of exposure to malaria infection in infants. However, all five children who experienced high-density infections (>100 parasites/μl of blood) were seronegative for MSP-119 at the time of infection.