Malaria in Brazilian military personnel deployed to Angola

J Travel Med. 2000 Sep-Oct;7(5):275-82. doi: 10.2310/7060.2000.00077.


Background: Malaria represents one of the most important infectious disease threats to deployed military forces; most personnel from developed countries are nonimmune personnel and are at high risk of infection and clinical malaria. This is especially true for forces deployed to highly-endemic areas in Africa and Southeast Asia where drug-resistant malaria is common.

Methods: We conducted an outbreak investigation of malaria cases in Angola where a total of 439 nonimmune Brazilian troops were deployed for a 6-month period in 1995-1996. A post-travel medical evaluation was also performed on 338 (77%) of the 439 soldiers upon return to Brazil. Questionnaire, medical record, thick/thin smear, and serum anti-Plasmodium falciparum antibody titer (by IFA) data were obtained. Peak serum mefloquine (M) and methylmefloquine (MM) metabolite levels were measured in a subsample of 66 soldiers (42 cases, 24 nonmalaria controls) who were taking weekly mefloquine prophylaxis (250 mg).

Results: Seventy-eight cases of malaria occurred among the 439 personnel initially interviewed in Angola (attack rate = 18%). Four soldiers were hospitalized, and 3 subsequently died of cerebral malaria. Upon return to Brazil, 63 (19%) of 338 soldiers evaluated were documented to have had clinical symptoms and a diagnosis of malaria while in Angola. In addition, 37 (11%) asymptomatically infected individuals were detected upon return (< 1% parasitemia). Elevated, post-travel anti-P. falciparum IFA titers (> or = 1:64) were seen in 101 (35%) of 292 soldiers tested, and was associated with a prior history of malaria in-country (OR = 3.67, 95% CI 1.98-6.82, p <.001). Noncompliance with weekly mefloquine prophylaxis (250 mg) was associated with a malaria diagnosis in Angola (OR = 3.75, 95% CI 0.97-17.41, p =.03) but not with recent P. falciparum infection (by IFA titer). Mean peak levels (and ratios) of serum M and MM were also found to be lower in those who gave a history of malaria while in Angola.

Conclusions: Malaria was a significant cause of morbidity among Brazilian Army military personnel deployed to Angola. Mefloquine prophylaxis appeared to protect soldiers from clinical, but not subclinical, P. falciparum infections. Mefloquine noncompliance and an erratic chemoprophylaxis prevention policy contributed to this large outbreak in nonimmune personnel. This report highlights the pressing need for development of newer, more efficacious and practical, prophylactic drug regimens that will reduce the malaria threat to military forces and travelers.

MeSH terms

  • Angola / epidemiology
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Brazil
  • Disease Outbreaks*
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / diagnosis
  • Malaria, Falciparum / epidemiology*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / prevention & control
  • Mefloquine / therapeutic use
  • Military Personnel*
  • Patient Compliance
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Antimalarials
  • Mefloquine