Plasmodium (P.) vivax malaria is rarely associated with severe complications like acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). We report three cases of ARDS, which occurred as a complication of vivax malaria, from the city of Kolkata. A middle aged man who developed ARDS along with hepatic and renal dysfunction on the day 7 after completion of antimalarial treatment; a 36-year-old man who developed ARDS on the day 5 after completion of antimalarial treatment and a 15-year-old boy who developed ARDS on day 2, before starting anti-malarial drug. In all cases, vivax malaria was diagnosed by peripheral blood film (PBF) examination. Associated falciparum infection was excluded by repeated PBF examination, and by negative P. falciparum malaria antigen tests. In all cases, ARDS was diagnosed by the presence of hypoxia with PaO(2) / FiO(2) ratio < 200 and bilateral pulmonary infiltration, and by excluding cardiac disease by echocardiography. All cases typically had dramatic onset of ARDS, and required immediate (within hour of onset of dyspnea) institution of mechanical ventilation with high positive end expiratory pressure. All three cases recovered completely, and early ventilator support was life-saving.
Keywords: Acute respiratory distress syndrome; malaria; mechanical ventilation; positive end expiratory pressure; vivax.