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A delayed fractionated dose RTS,S AS01 vaccine regimen mediates protection via improved T follicular helper and B cell responses

Pallikkuth, S;Chaudhury, S;Lu, P;Pan, L;Jongert, E;Wille-Reece, U;Pahwa, S;

Malaria-071, a controlled human malaria infection trial, demonstrated that administration of three doses of RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine given at one-month intervals was inferior to a delayed fractional dose (DFD) schedule (62.5% vs 86.7% protection, respectively). To investigate the underlying immunologic mechanism, we analyzed the B and T peripheral follicular helper cell (pTfh) responses. Here, we show that protection in both study arms was associated with early induction of functional IL-21-secreting circumsporozoite (CSP)-specific pTfh cells, together with induction of CSP-specific memory B cell responses after the second dose that persisted after the third dose. Data integration of key immunologic measures identified a subset of non-protected individuals in the standard (STD) vaccine arm who lost prior protective B cell responses after receiving the third vaccine dose. We conclude that the DFD regimen favors persistence of functional B cells after the third dose.