Variation in haematological parameters in children less than five years of age with asymptomatic Plasmodium infection: implication for malaria field studies

Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2013 Aug;108(5):644-50. doi: 10.1590/0074-0276108052013017.


During the season of high malaria transmission, most children are infected by Plasmodium, which targets red blood cells (RBCs), affecting haematological parameters. To describe these variations, we examined the haematological profiles of two groups of children living in a malaria-endemic area. A cross-sectional survey was conducted at the peak of the malaria transmission season in a rural area of Burkina Faso. After informed consent and clinical examination, blood samples were obtained from the participants for malaria diagnosis and a full blood count. Of the 414 children included in the analysis, 192 were not infected with Plasmodium, whereas 222 were asymptomatic carriers of Plasmodium infection. The mean age of the infected children was 41.8 months (range of 26.4-57.2) compared to 38.8 months (range of 22.4-55.2) for the control group (p = 0.06). The asymptomatic infected children tended to have a significantly lower mean haemoglobin level (10.8 g/dL vs. 10.4 g/dL; p < 0.001), mean lymphocyte count (4592/µL vs. 5141/µL; p = 0.004), mean platelet count (266 x 10³/µL vs. 385 x 10³/µL; p < 0.001) and mean RBC count (4.388 x 10(6)/µL vs. 4.158 x 10(6)/µL; p < 0.001) and a higher mean monocyte count (1403/µL vs. 1192/µL; p < 0.001) compared to the control group. Special attention should be applied when interpreting haematological parameters and evaluating immune responses in asymptomatic infected children living in malaria-endemic areas and enrolled in vaccine trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Asymptomatic Infections / epidemiology*
  • Burkina Faso / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Malaria / epidemiology*
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Male
  • Parasitemia / epidemiology*
  • Plasmodium / classification*
  • Plasmodium / isolation & purification
  • Prevalence
  • Rural Population
  • Seasons