In humans, immunity to Plasmodium sp. generally takes the form of protection from symptomatic malaria (i.e., 'clinical immunity') rather than infection ('sterilizing immunity'). In contrast, mice infected with Plasmodium develop sterilizing immunity, hindering progress in understanding the mechanistic basis of clinical immunity. Here we present a novel model in which mice persistently infected with P. chabaudi exhibit limited clinical symptoms despite sustaining patent parasite burdens for many months. Characterization of immune responses in persistently infected mice revealed development of CD4+ T cell exhaustion, increased production of IL-10, and expansion of B cells with an atypical surface phenotype. Additionally, persistently infected mice displayed a dramatic increase in circulating nonclassical monocytes, a phenomenon that we also observed in humans with both chronic Plasmodium exposure and asymptomatic infection. Following pharmacological clearance of infection, previously persistently infected mice could not control a secondary challenge, indicating that persistent infection disrupts the sterilizing immunity that typically develops in mouse models of acute infection. This study establishes an animal model of asymptomatic, persistent Plasmodium infection that recapitulates several central aspects of the immune response in chronically exposed humans. As such, it provides a novel tool for dissection of immune responses that may prevent development of sterilizing immunity and limit pathology during infection.
ASJC Scopus subject areas