Decreased susceptibility to Plasmodium falciparum infection in pregnant women with iron deficiency

J Infect Dis. 2008 Jul 15;198(2):163-6. doi: 10.1086/589512.


Iron plus folate supplementation increases mortality and morbidity among children in areas of malaria endemicity in Africa, but the effects of supplementation on pregnant women in malaria-endemic areas remain unclear. In northeastern Tanzania, where malaria and iron deficiency are common, we found that placental malaria was less prevalent (8.5% vs. 47.3% of women; P< .0001) and less severe (median parasite density, 4.2% vs. 6.3% of placental red blood cells; P< .04) among women with iron deficiency than among women with sufficient iron stores, especially during the first pregnancy. Multivariate analysis revealed that iron deficiency (P< .0001) and multigravidity (P< .002) significantly decreased the risk of placental malaria. Interventional trials of iron and folate supplementation during pregnancy in malaria-endemic regions in Africa are urgently needed to ascertain the benefits and risks of this intervention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / immunology*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / prevention & control*
  • Placenta / parasitology
  • Placenta / pathology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / immunology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / prevention & control*