Objective: Existing information has shown that infants who are prenatally exposed to P. falciparum are susceptible to subsequent malaria infections. However, the effect of prenatal exposure to P. falciparum on parasite density during clinical malaria episodes has not been fully elucidated. This study is a component of a prospective cohort study for which initial results have been published. This component was designed to determine the effect of prenatal exposure to P. falciparum on parasite density during clinical malaria episodes in the first 24 months of life. A total of 215 infants were involved and monitored for clinical malaria episodes defined by fever (≥ 37 °C) and parasitaemia. The geometric mean parasite counts between exposed and unexposed infants were compared using independent samples t test. The effect of in utero exposure to P. falciparum on parasite density was assessed using binary logistic regression.
Results: The geometric mean parasite count per µl of blood during clinical malaria episodes in exposed infants was 24,889 (95% CI 18,286-31,490) while in unexposed infants it was 14,035 (95% CI 12,111-15,960), P < 0.05. Prenatal exposure to P. falciparum was associated with hyperparasitaemia during clinical malaria episodes (OR 7.04, 95% CI 2.31-21.74), while other factors were not significantly associated (P > 0.05).
Keywords: Hyperparasitaemia; In utero; Infants; Malaria; P. falciparum; Parasite density.