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, 30 (4), 271-82

The Impact of Maternal Malaria on Newborns


The Impact of Maternal Malaria on Newborns

T K Hartman et al. Ann Trop Paediatr.


Background: Each year, malaria threatens 125 million pregnancies, and gestational malaria is responsible for up to 200,000 infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. With advancing knowledge of malaria in pregnancy and its impact on newborns, improved preventive and therapeutic interventions are possible.

Methods: We reviewed and, by consensus, evaluated published literature relevant to malaria and newborns. Important findings are summarised.

Results: Pregnant women are more likely than others to be inoculated with and infected by malaria parasites. Poor outcomes are particularly common in primigravid women and their offspring. The placenta is affected through cellular adhesion, cytokine production and mononuclear cell infiltrates. As a result, newborns may have low birthweight owing to intrauterine growth retardation or prematurity. Recent evidence suggests that a subset of these infants is also at higher risk of malaria infections later in life. Preventive strategies to improve maternal and fetal outcomes include intermittent preventive treatment and insecticide-treated bed nets. Asymptomatic malaria infection is not uncommon in newborns, and symptomatic disease occurs. Fever and death are possible during the early days of life, and presentation with a sepsis-like illness can occur during the 1st 2 months of life. Malaria-affected infants face higher than usual risks of infantile anaemia, subsequent malaria infection and death during the 1st year of life.

Conclusions: Malaria is common during pregnancy and can have serious consequences for neonatal health. Neonatal morbidity and mortality can be significantly reduced by proper implementation of insecticide-treated nets and intermittent preventive treatment.

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