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Why does Plasmodium falciparum cause severe illness in some but not all infections? How is clinical immunity acquired? These questions have intrigued investigators since the clinical epidemiology of malaria was first described. The search for answers to both questions has highlighted the changes that take place at the surface of infected red blood cells during the last half of the erythrocytic cycle. These changes specify the antigenic and adhesive or cytoadherence phenotypes for the infected cell. Now the antigenic and adhesive phenotypes appear to be linked and together undergo clonal variation. In this article David Roberts, Beverley-Ann Biggs, Graham Brown and Christopher Newbold explain how clonal phenotypic variation and the linkage between adhesive and antigenic types contribute to our understanding of naturally acquired immunity and of pathogenesis of severe malaria.

Original publication




Journal article


Parasitol Today

Publication Date





281 - 286