Malaria Complications

Although global morbidity and mortality have decreased substantially, malaria caused by infection with Plasmodium falciparum transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes remains one of the major health problems in sub-Saharan Africa. Morbidity and mortality from malaria are pronounced in children, but by adult hood most malaria infections are asymptomatic.

The parasite invades the erythrocytes or red blood cells and the first symptoms in endemic areas are non-specific such as headache, fever, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle aches, and abdominal discomfort. Patients with uncomplicated infections can show anaemia, spleen and liver enlargement.

Severe falciparum malaria is a complex clinical syndrome comprising a number of conditions that depend of the age; it is caused mainly by extensive parasitised erythrocyte sequestration and consequent dysfunction of vital organs. Severe anaemia and hypoglycaemia are the most common complications in children, whereas acute pulmonary oedema, acute kidney injury, and jaundice are more frequent in adults; coma (cerebral malaria) and acidosis occur in all age groups.

Vaccines and drug development and vectors control are the main actions to prevent malaria.


White NJ, Pukrittayakamee S, Hien TT, Faiz MA, Mokuolu OA, Dondorp AM. Malaria. Lancet (London, England); 2014;383(9918):723–35.

Gene or region studied

  • ABO
  • TNF
  • FCGR2A
  • G6PD
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