Changes in white blood cells and platelets in children with falciparum malaria: relationship to disease outcome

Ladhani S, Lowe B, Cole AO, Kowuondo K, Newton CR
Br J Haematol. 2002;119

Permenent descriptor

Little is known about the changes in white blood cells and platelets in children with falciparum malaria in endemic areas. We measured the white cell count (WCC) and platelets of 230 healthy children from the community, 1369 children admitted to hospital with symptomatic malaria, and 1461 children with other medical conditions. Children with malaria had a higher WCC compared with community controls, and leucocytosis was strongly associated with younger age, deep breathing, severe anaemia, thrombocytopenia and death. The WCC was not associated with a positive blood culture. In children with malaria, high lymphocyte and low monocyte counts were independently associated with mortality. A platelet count of less than 150 x 109/l was found in 56.7% of children with malaria, and was associated with age, prostration and parasite density, but not with bleeding problems or mortality. The mean platelet volume was also higher in children with malaria compared with other medical conditions. This may reflect early release from the bone marrow in response to peripheral platelet destruction. Thus, leucocytosis was associated with both severity and mortality in children with falciparum malaria, irrespective of bacteraemia, whereas thrombocytopenia, although very common, was not associated with adverse outcome.