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Contact Info

Michael Walther, Ph.D., M.Sc.
Twinbrook II, Room 239A
12441 Parklawn Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-8180
Phone: 301-827-4732 
Fax: 301-480-2977


Laboratory of Malaria Immunology and Vaccinology

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Michael Walther, Ph.D., M.Sc.

Chief, Human Immune Regulation Section, LMIV

Major Areas of Research

  • Investigate the role of immune regulatory components induced by malaria on the outcome of subsequent malaria infections, using samples from field studies.
  • Study the induction requirements of malaria-induced immune regulatory components in vitro.
  • Conduct clinical testing of adjunctive treatment for severe malaria.

Program Description

In Plasmodium falciparum infections, a sizeable proportion of red blood cells may harbor a parasite. Each parasite is several µm large and capable of expressing more than 5,000 genes, the majority of which may act as antigens. This considerable parasite biomass constitutes a challenge to the immune system. While malaria-induced cell-mediated immune effector mechanisms clearly contribute to parasite clearance, exacerbated immune responses are thought to cause immune-mediated pathology. The ability to tailor the magnitude of malaria-specific effector responses to a level that allows parasite clearance without causing immune pathology may thus be a determinant of immunity that protects against severe forms of malaria.

Using samples obtained from naturally exposed individuals, the Human Immune Regulation Section aims to elucidate the role different malaria-induced immune regulatory components may have on the outcome of subsequent malaria infections. Complementary in vitro experiments will explore how such mechanisms can be induced. Ultimately, the work of this section strives to inform the design of future vaccines and treatments to prevent severe disease.


Dr. Walther joined LMIV in 2010 as head of the Human Immune Regulation Section. Prior to joining the National Institutes of Health, he was senior immunologist at the Malaria Research Program with the UK Medical Research Council laboratories in The Gambia (West Africa). Education includes medical training at Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelms-University in Bonn, Germany, with specializations in general medicine, tropical medicine, and emergency medicine; an M.Sc. in tropical medicine and international health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and a Ph.D. and the venia legendi in tropical medicine and infectious disease immunology (equivalent to an associate professorship) from the Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelms-University, Bonn, Germany.

Research Group

Junhui Duan, Scientist
Beza Seyoum, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Fellow
Irfan Zaidi, Ph.D., Visiting Fellow

Selected Publications

Cunnington AJ, de Souza JB, Walther M, Riley EM. Malaria impairs resistance to Salmonella through heme- and heme oxygenase-dependent dysfunctional granulocyte mobilization. Nat Med. 2011 Dec 18;18(1):120-7.

Nogaro SI, Hafalla JC, Walther B, Remarque EJ, Tetteh KK, Conway DJ, Riley EM, Walther M. The breadth, but not the magnitude, of circulating memory B cell responses to P. falciparum increases with age/exposure in an area of low transmission. PLoS One. 2011;6(10):e25582.

de Souza JB, Okomo U, Alexander ND, Aziz N, Owens BM, Kaur H, Jasseh M, Muangnoicharoen S, Sumariwalla PF, Warhurst DC, Ward SA, Conway DJ, Ulloa L, Tracey KJ, Foxwell BM, Kaye PM, Walther M. Oral activated charcoal prevents experimental cerebral malaria in mice and in a randomized controlled clinical trial in man did not interfere with the pharmacokinetics of parenteral artesunate. PLoS One. 2010 Apr 15;5(4):e9867.

Finney OC, Riley EM, Walther M. Regulatory T cells in malaria--friend or foe? Trends Immunol. 2010 Feb;31(2):63-70.

Visit PubMed for a complete publication listing.

Last Updated October 31, 2012