Within the human host, the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is exposed to multiple selection pressures. The host environment changes dramatically in severe malaria, but the extent to which the parasite responds to—or is selected by—this environment remains unclear. From previous studies, the parasites that cause severe malaria appear to increase expression of a restricted but poorly defined subset of the PfEMP1 variant, surface antigens. PfEMP1s are major targets of protective immunity.