An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) has been developed to measure antibody levels in human sera to a candidate vaccine antigen, merozoite surface protein-1 (MSP1), of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. To ensure the detection of antibodies reactive with important conformational epitopes, antigens used in the ELISA were obtained from either in vitro parasite cultures, or from a baculovirus expression system in which correct folding of recombinant MSP1-derived polypeptides has been previously demonstrated. The specificity of the ELISA was confirmed using a novel antibody affinity select method. The assay was used to investigate the pattern of acquisition of anti-MSP1 antibodies in a cross-sectional survey of 387 3-8 year old residents of a malaria endemic area of The Gambia. A significant positive correlation between anti-MSP1 antibody levels and age was evident, though individual responses to two antigens corresponding to two distinct domains of the MSP1 varied widely.