Volume 101, Issue 6
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645



Presently, it is difficult to accurately diagnose sepsis, a common cause of childhood death in sub-Saharan Africa, in malaria-endemic areas, given the clinical and pathophysiological overlap between malarial and non-malarial sepsis. Host biomarkers can distinguish sepsis from uncomplicated fever, but are often abnormal in malaria in the absence of sepsis. To identify biomarkers that predict sepsis in a malaria-endemic setting, we retrospectively analyzed data and sera from a case–control study of febrile Malawian children (aged 6–60 months) with and without malaria who presented to a community health center in Blantyre (January–August 2016). We characterized biomarkers for 29 children with uncomplicated malaria without sepsis, 25 without malaria or sepsis, 17 with malaria and sepsis, and 16 without malaria but with sepsis. Sepsis was defined using systemic inflammatory response criteria; biomarkers (interleukin-6 [IL-6], tumor necrosis factor receptor-1, interleukin-1 β [IL-1β], interleukin-10 [IL-10], von Willebrand factor antigen-2, intercellular adhesion molecule-1, and angiopoietin-2 [Ang-2]) were measured with multiplex magnetic bead assays. IL-6, IL-1β, and IL-10 were elevated, and Ang-2 was decreased in children with malaria compared with non-malarial fever. Children with non-malarial sepsis had greatly increased IL-1β compared with the other subgroups. IL-1β best predicted sepsis, with an area under the receiver operating characteristic (AUROC) of 0.71 (95% CI: 0.57–0.85); a combined biomarker–clinical characteristics model improved prediction (AUROC of 0.77, 95% CI: 0.67–0.85). We identified a distinct biomarker profile for non-malarial sepsis and developed a sepsis prediction model. Additional clinical and biological data are necessary to further explore sepsis pathophysiology in malaria-endemic regions.


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  • Received : 02 Aug 2018
  • Accepted : 02 Sep 2019
  • Published online : 07 Oct 2019
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