Malaria infection and severe disease risks in Africa

Paton RS, Kamau A, Akech S, Agweyu A, Ogero M, Mwandawiro C, Mturi N, Mohammed S, Mpimbaza A, Kariuki S, Otieno NA, Nyawanda BO, Mohamed AF, Mtove G, Reyburn H, Gupta S, Bejon P, Lourenço J, Snow RW
Science. 2021;373

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The relationship between community prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum and the burden of severe, life-threatening disease remains poorly defined. To examine the three most common severe malaria phenotypes from catchment populations across East Africa, we assembled a dataset of 6506 hospital admissions for malaria in children aged 3 months to 9 years from 2006 to 2020. Admissions were paired with data from community parasite infection surveys. A Bayesian procedure was used to calibrate uncertainties in exposure (parasite prevalence) and outcomes (severe malaria phenotypes). Each 25% increase in prevalence conferred a doubling of severe malaria admission rates. Severe malaria remains a burden predominantly among young children (3 to 59 months) across a wide range of community prevalence typical of East Africa. This study offers a quantitative framework for linking malaria parasite prevalence and severe disease outcomes in children.