Immunity to malaria and infectious diseases during pregnancy

How are pregnant women more susceptible to, and more severely affected by, infectious diseases such as malaria?

Immunity to infectious diseases during pregnancy remains an intriguing area, with immunological and physiological changes during pregnancy rendering pregnant women to be more susceptible to, and more severely affected by, infectious diseases.

How the maternal acquired immune response changes throughout pregnancy in both the presence and absence of pathogens is unknown.

  • Can pregnant women maintain immune responses throughout pregnancy?
  • Can pregnant women mount effective immune responses?
  • Can pregnant women boost responses upon re-exposure to a pathogen?
  • Is immunity transferred to the infant? and how long does it last?

All of these fundamental questions remain largely unanswered.


Using malaria (the most important parasitic pathogen in pregnancy) as a model, we aim to address fundamental questions on the modulation of antibody acquisition and maintenance during pregnancy and assess the ability to boost antibody responses upon re-exposure to pathogens in pregnant women.


We have samples from several established longitudinal cohorts of pregnant women and infants in Asia and Africa that can address questions of antibody acquisition and maintenance through high-throughput antibody assays and epidemiological analyses.


  • Understand how immunity develops and is maintained against infectious diseases
  • Understand the susceptibility and immunity of pregnant women to infectious pathogens
  • Develop epidemiological frameworks for further comprehensive immunological studies of malaria and other pathogens in pregnant and non-pregnant individuals
  • Assess the usefulness of sero-epidemiological tools for population sentinel surveillance in this high-risk group
  • Inform vaccine development of candidate malaria vaccines for the use in pregnant women.

Contact Details

For any general enquiries relating to this project, please contact:

Professor Freya J.I. Fowkes

Deputy Program Director, Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health