Retrospective clinical case series study in 2017 identifies Plasmodium knowlesi as most frequent Plasmodium species in returning travellers from Thailand to Germany

Euro Surveill. 2018 Jul;23(29):1700619. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2018.23.29.1700619.


Febrile illnesses are common in travellers returning from south-east Asia. However, malaria is a rare diagnosis in this population. A series of Plasmodium knowlesi infections was noted in German travellers returning from Thailand since 2012. Infectious disease and tropical medicine facilities registered by the German Society for Tropical Medicine and International Health were contacted in March 2017, and asked to report previous P. knowlesi cases. In addition, surveillance data from the Robert Koch-Institute were analysed. The facilities reported a total of six P. knowlesi-positive cases, all were returning travellers from Thailand. The P. knowlesi-positive cases made up 6/9 of all diagnosed malaria cases imported from Thailand in the time period 2012 to 2017. In 4/5 of cases where a malaria rapid diagnostic test had been applied it revealed a negative result. P. knowlesi is an important differential diagnosis in travellers returning from south-east Asia with itineraries that include Thailand. This study highlights the importance of this Plasmodium species in this patient subgroup. Whenever malaria is suspected in a returning traveller from Thailand, P. knowlesi should be taken into consideration and a differential PCR be executed as currently the unequivocal diagnosis of P. knowlesi is based on nuclear amplification techniques.

Keywords: Germany; Plasmodium knowlesi; Thailand; malaria; rapid diagnostic test; travel.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Communicable Diseases, Emerging / diagnosis*
  • Communicable Diseases, Imported*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Malaria / diagnosis*
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Plasmodium knowlesi / genetics
  • Plasmodium knowlesi / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thailand
  • Travel*
  • Zoonoses