Shrinking the Malaria Map

UCSF Global Health Group’s Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI)

Global Health Group comments on malaria and severe anemia

17 January 2014

In response to a recent study published in PLOS medicine, Major Burden of Severe Anemia from Non-Falciparum Malaria Species in Southern Papua: A Hospital-Based Surveillance Study, Dr. Roly Gosling and Dr. Michelle Hsiang of the UCSF Global Health Group's Malaria Elimination Initiative (MEI) discuss the importance of interventions targeted at P. vivax and mixed parasite infections, especially in light of new evidence that suggests that mixed infections may cause a higher burden of anemia. The editorial, Malaria and Severe Anemia: Thinking beyond Plasmodium falciparum, adds that additional complications arise around clinical management for those infected with P. vivax who also have severe anemia.  For example, iron supplements are traditionally thought to have detrimental effects on treating malaria, but a recent Cochrane review suggests otherwise; that treatment of anemia with iron during severe malaria infection actually improves recovery.  There is also a fear of using primaquine in an anemic patient as those with G6PD deficiency are already prone to hemolysis. In light of this emerging evidence, prevention measures for non-falciparum malaria should be employed and more research should be undertaken.