Plasmodium vivax infection: A major determinant of severe anaemia in infancy

Enny Kenangalem, Muhammad Karyana, Lenny Burdarm, Shunmay Yeung, Julie A. Simpson, Emiliana Tjitra, Nicholas M. Anstey, Jeanne Rini Poespoprodjo, Ric N. Price, Nicholas (Nick) Douglas

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Background: Most malarious countries outside of Africa are co-endemic for Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. The comparative burden of anaemia in the community caused by these two species is incompletely characterized.

Methods: A three-stage, cross-sectional, community survey was used to determine the proportion of moderate or severe anaemia (haemoglobin <7 g/dL) attributable to patent P. vivax, P. falciparum and mixed parasitaemia in Papua, Indonesia. Adjusted population-attributable fractions were calculated from multivariable logistic regression models. Eight hundred and twenty-five households were surveyed with a total of 5255 occupants, 3890 (74 %) of whom were present and provided a blood sample. Plasmodium falciparum parasitaemia was present in 8.1 % (n = 315) of participants, P. vivax in 6.4 % (n = 250) and mixed infections in 1.9 % (n = 72). Overall, P. falciparum was associated with a mean reduction in haemoglobin of 1.16 g/dL compared to those without patent parasitaemia [95 % confidence interval (95 % CI) 0.91, 1.41 g/dL]. The corresponding values for P. vivax and mixed infections were 0.66 g/dL (95 % CI 0.35, 0.96) and 1.25 g/dL (0.71, 1.80), respectively. Overall, 16.7 % (95 % CI 8.52, 24.2 %) of haemoglobin concentrations <7 g/dL in the community were estimated to be attributable to patent parasitaemia. The fractions for infants and 1-5 years old were 34.4 % (95 % CI -3.30, 58.3 %) and 23.2 % (95 % CI 3.34, 39.0 %), respectively. Plasmodium vivax was associated with a greater than threefold higher attributable fraction of anaemia in infants compared with P. Falciparum [27.6 % (95 % CI -3.20, 49.2 %) versus 7.94 % (-5.87, 20.0 %)].

Conclusion: Despite comparatively low-level endemicity, malaria is associated with a significant proportion of all cases of community anaemia in southern Papua. Contrary to its benign reputation, P. vivax is an important and preventable risk factor for anaemia during infancy - a probable consequence of relapsing disease prior to the development of immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Article number321
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jun 2016


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