The extensive diversity of Plasmodium falciparum antigens is a major obstacle to a broadly effective malaria vaccine but population genetics has rarely been used to guide vaccine design.
Vaccines directed against the blood stages of Plasmodium falciparum malaria are intended to prevent the parasite from invading and replicating within host cells. No blood-stage malaria vaccine has shown clinical efficacy in humans. Most malaria vaccine antigens are parasite surface proteins that have evolved extensive genetic diversity, and this diversity could allow malaria parasites to escape vaccine-induced immunity. We examined the extent and within-host dynamics of genetic diversity in the blood-stage malaria vaccine antigen apical membrane antigen–1 in a longitudinal study in Mali.