Severe and Complicated Falciparum Malaria in Melanesian Adults in Papua New Guinea

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  • Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Papua New Guinea, Centre for Tropical Medicine, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Boroko, Papua New Guinea

Severe falciparum malaria usually occurs in children, but also occurs in nonimmune migrants or partially immune adults in areas of unstable transmission. We have studied prospectively 70 adult patients with strictly defined severe malaria from the south coast of Papua New Guinea where malaria transmission is not intense. Only 19 (27.1%) were migrants from areas where malaria transmission does not occur; many other patients were periurban dwellers who had become infected after visits to their home villages. The most common clinical features were jaundice or hepatic dysfunction, impaired consciousness, renal failure, cerebral malaria, and anemia. Hypoglycemia was common following treatment with quinine. The overall case fatality rate was 18.6%; renal failure and cerebral malaria in particular were associated with a poor outcome. Reduction in mortality might be achieved by aggressive therapy of renal failure with earlier institution of dialysis; the use of preventive measures for immigrants or urban dwellers returning to high transmission areas might reduce the incidence of this dangerous disease.