Adverse pregnancy outcomes are associated with Plasmodium vivax malaria in a prospective cohort of women from the Brazilian Amazon

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2021 Apr 29;15(4):e0009390. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0009390. eCollection 2021 Apr.


Background: Malaria in Brazil represents one of the highest percentages of Latin America cases, where approximately 84% of infections are attributed to Plasmodium (P.) vivax. Despite the high incidence, many aspects of gestational malaria resulting from P. vivax infections remain poorly studied. As such, we aimed to evaluate the consequences of P. vivax infections during gestation on the health of mothers and their neonates in an endemic area of the Amazon.

Methods and findings: We have conducted an observational cohort study in Brazilian Amazon between January 2013 and April 2015. 600 pregnant women were enrolled and followed until delivery. After applying exclusion criteria, 329 mother-child pairs were included in the analysis. Clinical data regarding maternal infection, newborn's anthropometric measures, placental histopathological characteristics, and angiogenic and inflammatory factors were evaluated. The presence of plasma IgG against the P. vivax (Pv) MSP119 protein was used as marker of exposure and possible associations with pregnancy outcomes were analyzed. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that P. vivax infections during the first trimester of pregnancy are associated with adverse gestational outcomes such as premature birth (adjusted odds ratio [aOR] 8.12, 95% confidence interval [95%CI] 2.69-24.54, p < 0.0001) and reduced head circumference (aOR 3.58, 95%CI 1.29-9.97, p = 0.01). Histopathology analysis showed marked differences between placentas from P. vivax-infected and non-infected pregnant women, especially regarding placental monocytes infiltrate. Placental levels of vasomodulatory factors such as angiopoietin-2 (ANG-2) and complement proteins such as C5a were also altered at delivery. Plasma levels of anti-PvMSP119 IgG in infected pregnant women were shown to be a reliable exposure marker; yet, with no association with improved pregnancy outcomes.

Conclusions: This study indicates that P. vivax malaria during the first trimester of pregnancy represents a higher likelihood of subsequent poor pregnancy outcomes associated with marked placental histologic modification and angiogenic/inflammatory imbalance. Additionally, our findings support the idea that antibodies against PvMSP119 are not protective against poor pregnancy outcomes induced by P. vivax infections.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antigens, Protozoan / immunology
  • Brazil
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Logistic Models
  • Malaria, Falciparum / epidemiology
  • Malaria, Vivax / diagnosis
  • Malaria, Vivax / immunology
  • Malaria, Vivax / pathology*
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Placenta / pathology*
  • Plasmodium vivax / immunology
  • Plasmodium vivax / pathogenicity*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Pregnancy Complications, Infectious / pathology*
  • Pregnancy Outcome*
  • Pregnancy Trimester, First
  • Premature Birth / etiology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Young Adult


  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Immunoglobulin G