Adult respiratory distress syndrome complicating Plasmodium falciparum malaria

Heart Lung. Jul-Aug 2000;29(4):294-7. doi: 10.1067/mhl.2000.106724.


In people who do not have clinical immunity to malaria, infection with the malaria parasite could lead to severe complications. We describe a patient who had acute and severe lung injury from malaria. A 37-year-old woman had a 24-hour history of generalized weakness and chills 2 days after returning from Nigeria. She had received mefloquine as prophylaxis, but the patient did not take the medication. On admission, a thick blood smear revealed severe Plasmodium falciparum parasitemia. She was given doxycycline and quinine, but as her parasitemia resolved, dyspnea and hypoxemia developed and she consequently required placement of an endotracheal tube. Chest radiography results showed bilateral and diffuse infiltrate. This report shows that patients with P falciparum malaria should be monitored closely and transferred to an intensive care unit for additional management if respiratory distress develops. Physicians caring for patients who have recently traveled to malaria-endemic areas need to anticipate the possible development of malaria with all of its complications, including acute lung injury.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / complications*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy
  • Nigeria
  • Plasmodium falciparum / isolation & purification
  • Radiography
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / diagnostic imaging
  • Respiratory Distress Syndrome / etiology*
  • Travel