The burden of malaria in pregnancy in malaria-endemic areas

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Pregnant women in malarious areas may experience a variety of adverse consequences from malaria infection including maternal anemia, placental accumulation of parasites, low birth weight (LBW) from prematurity and intrauterine growth retardation (IUGR), fetal parasite exposure and congenital infection, and infant mortality (IM) linked to preterm-LBW and IUGR-LBW. We reviewed studies between 1985 and 2000 and summarized the malaria population attributable risk (PAR) that accounts for both the prevalence of the risk factors in the population and the magnitude of the associated risk for anemia, LBW, and IM. Consequences from anemia and human immunodeficiency virus infection in these studies were also considered. Population attributable risks were substantial: malaria was associated with anemia (PAR range = 3-15%), LBW (8-14%), preterm-LBW (8-36%), IUGR-LBW (13-70%), and IM (3-8%). Human immunodeficiency virus was associated with anemia (PAR range = 12-14%), LBW (11-38%), and direct transmission in 20-40% of newborns, with direct mortality consequences. Maternal anemia was associated with LBW (PAR range = 7-18%), and fetal anemia was associated with increased IM (PAR not available). We estimate that each year 75,000 to 200,000 infant deaths are associated with malaria infection in pregnancy. The failure to apply known effective antimalarial interventions through antenatal programs continues to contribute substantially to infant deaths globally.

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