Malaria in pregnant women in an area with sustained high coverage of insecticide-treated bed nets

Malar J. 2008 Jul 21:7:133. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-7-133.


Background: Since 2000, the World Health Organization has recommended a package of interventions to prevent malaria during pregnancy and its sequelae that includes the promotion of insecticide-treated bed nets (ITNs), intermittent preventive treatment in pregnancy (IPTp), and effective case management of malarial illness. It is recommended that pregnant women in malaria-endemic areas receive at least two doses of sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. This study assessed the prevalence of placental malaria at delivery in women during 1st or 2nd pregnancy, who did not receive intermittent preventive treatment for malaria (IPTp) in a malaria-endemic area with high bed net coverage.

Methods: A hospital-based cross-sectional study was done in Ifakara, Tanzania, where bed net coverage is high. Primi- and secundigravid women, who presented to the labour ward and who reported not using IPTp were included in the study. Self-report data were collected by questionnaire; whereas neonatal birth weight and placenta parasitaemia were measured directly at the time of delivery.

Results: Overall, 413 pregnant women were enrolled of which 91% reported to have slept under a bed net at home the previous night, 43% reported history of fever and 62% were primigravid. Malaria parasites were detected in 8% of the placenta samples; the geometric mean (95%CI) placental parasite density was 3,457 (1,060-11,271) parasites/mul in primigravid women and 2,178 (881-5,383) parasites/mul in secundigravid women. Fifteen percent of newborns weighed <2,500 g at delivery. Self-reported bed net use was statistically associated with lower risk for low birth weight [OR 0.34 (95% CI: 0.16-0.74) and OR 0.22 (95% CI: 0.08-0.59) for untreated and treated bed nets, respectively], but was not associated with placental parasitaemia [OR 0.74 (0.21-2.68) and OR 1.64 (0.44-6.19) for untreated and treated bed nets, respectively].

Conclusion: The observed incidence of LBW and prevalence of placental parasitaemia at delivery suggests that malaria remains a problem in pregnancy in this area with high bed net coverage when eligible women do not receive IPTp. Delivery of IPTp should be emphasized at all levels of implementation to achieve maximum community coverage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antimalarials / administration & dosage
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Bedding and Linens*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Combinations
  • Female
  • Hospitals / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides / analysis*
  • Malaria / epidemiology*
  • Malaria / prevention & control
  • Mosquito Control / instrumentation
  • Mosquito Control / methods
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / prevention & control
  • Prevalence
  • Pyrimethamine / administration & dosage
  • Pyrimethamine / therapeutic use
  • Sulfadoxine / administration & dosage
  • Sulfadoxine / therapeutic use
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tanzania / epidemiology


  • Antimalarials
  • Drug Combinations
  • Insecticides
  • fanasil, pyrimethamine drug combination
  • Sulfadoxine
  • Pyrimethamine