Background: Malaria is the commonest cause of childhood morbidity in Western Kenya with varied haematological consequences. The t study sought to elucidate the haematological changes in children infected with malaria and their impact on improved diagnosis and therapy of childhood malaria.
Methods: Haematological parameters in 961 children, including 523 malaria-infected and 438 non-malaria infected, living in Kisumu West District, an area of malaria holoendemic transmission in Western Kenya were evaluated.
Results: The following parameters were significantly lower in malaria-infected children; platelets, lymphocytes, eosinophils, red blood cell count and haemoglobin (Hb), while absolute monocyte and neutrophil counts, and mean platelet volume (MPV) were higher in comparison to non-malaria infected children. Children with platelet counts of <150,000/uL were 13.8 times (odds ratio) more likely to have malaria. Thrombocytopaenia was present in 49% of malaria-infected children and was associated with high parasitaemia levels, lower age, low Hb levels, increased MPV and platelet aggregate flag. Platelet aggregates were more frequent in malaria-infected children (25% vs. 4%, p<0.0001) and associated with thrombocytopaenia rather than malaria status.
Conclusion: Children infected with Plasmodium falciparum malaria exhibited important changes in some haematological parameters with low platelet count and haemoglobin concentration being the two most important predictors of malaria infection in children in our study area. When used in combination with other clinical and microscopy, these parameters could improve malaria diagnosis in sub-patent cases.