Malaria and vitamin A deficiency in African children: a vicious circle?

Malar J. 2009 Jun 17:8:134. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-8-134.


Vitamin A deficiency and malaria are both highly prevalent health problems in Africa. Vitamin A deficiency affects over 30 million children, most of whom are in the age-group (under five years) most affected by malaria. Vitamin A deficiency increases all-cause mortality in this part of the population, and malaria is an important cause of death in children at this age. A low serum retinol concentration (a marker of vitamin A deficiency) is commonly found in children suffering from malaria, but it is not certain whether this represents pre-existing vitamin A deficiency, a contribution of malaria to vitamin A deficiency, or merely an acute effect of malaria on retinol metabolism or binding. In this paper, available evidence in support of a causal relationship in each direction between vitamin A deficiency and malaria is reviewed. If such a relationship exists, and especially if this is bidirectional, interventions against either disease may convey an amplified benefit for health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Malaria / complications*
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Vitamin A / blood
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / complications*
  • Vitamin A Deficiency / epidemiology


  • Vitamin A