Introduction: The problem of malaria and malaria control in pregnancy in sub-Saharan Africa

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  • 1 Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, and International Health Program Office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia; Ministry of Health, and College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Blantyre, Malawi
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Plasmodium falciparum infection in pregnant women frequently leads to placental infection and low birth weight (< 2,500 grams) of the infant, particularly in the areas of high malaria transmission found in sub-Saharan Africa. Low birth weight is widely known to be an important risk factor for early infant mortality. To reduce the risk that maternal infection poses to child survival, many antenatal clinic programs recommend and provide antimalarial chemoprophylaxis, often with chloroquine (CQ) as a recommended element for antenatal care. Prior to the 1980s, despite widespread advocacy for this intervention, little was known about the effect of this intervention strategy. As an introduction to the Mangochi Malaria Research Project, which examined the efficacy of several antimalarial regimens using CQ or mefloquine in pregnant women in Malawi, we describe the background of knowledge regarding malaria infection in pregnant African women and the important elements of an intervention and prevention strategy.

Author Notes

Authors’ addresses: Richard W. Steketee, Epidemiology Branch, Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, STD, and TB Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mailstop E-45, 1600 Clifton Road, Atlanta, GA 30333. Jack J. Wirima, University of Malawi School of Medicine and Ministry of Health, Blantyre, Malawi. Laurence Slutsker, Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Branch, Division of Bacterial and Mycotic Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mailstop A-38, Atlanta, GA 30333. David L. Heymann, Emerging and Other Communicable Diseases Programme, World Health Organization, 1211 Geneva 27, Switzerland. Joel G. Breman, Division of International Training and Research, Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health, Building 31, Room B2C 39, Bethesda, MD 20892-2220.