Objectives: To examine the relationship between maternal HIV infection, placental malaria infection, and infant mortality as a first step in investigating the possibility of increased vertical transmission of HIV due to placental malaria infection.
Design: Retrospective analysis of data from a cohort study of mothers and infants in rural Malawi conducted from 1987 to 1990.
Methods: Pregnant women in Malawi were enrolled in a study examining chemoprophylaxis during pregnancy. At delivery, placental malaria infection status was determined. Infants born into this study were visited every 2 months for the first 2-3 years of life. Deaths were investigated using a standardized 'verbal autopsy' interview. Maternal serum collected during pregnancy was tested for antibodies to HIV-1 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with Western blot confirmation.
Results: Overall, 138 (5.3%) of 2608 women in the study were HIV-1-seropositive. Infant mortality rates were 144 and 235 per 1000 live births for children born to HIV-seronegative and HIV-seropositive women, respectively (P < 0.001). In a multivariate model, the odds of dying during the post-neonatal period for an infant born to a mother with both placental malaria and HIV infection was 4.5 times greater than an infant born to a mother with only placental malaria, and between 2.7 and 7.7 times greater (depending on birthweight) than an infant born to a mother with only HIV infection.
Conclusions: This study strongly suggests that exposure to both placental malaria infection and maternal HIV infection increases post-neonatal mortality beyond the independent risk associated with exposure to either maternal HIV or placental malaria infection. If confirmed, malaria chemoprophylaxis during pregnancy could decrease the impact of transmission of HIV from mother to infant.
PIP: Researchers analyzed data on 2608 women attending one of four prenatal clinics in Mangochi District in Malawi during 1987-1990 to study the relationship between maternal HIV infection, placental malaria infection, and infant mortality. 5.8% (138) of the women were HIV-1 seropositive. HIV-1 seroprevalence increased from 2.3% to 5.8% between 1987 and 1993. Infants born to HIV-1 positive mothers were much more likely to die during the first year of life than those born to HIV-1 negative mothers (235/1000 vs. 144/1000 live births; p 0.001). The excess deaths occurred during the postneonatal period (49 vs. 44, p = 0.3, for neonatal mortality, compared to 186 vs. 100, p 0.001, for postneonatal mortality). In the postneonatal period, diarrhea or gastrointestinal illness was more common as a cause of death among infants of HIV-1 positive mothers than those of HIV-1 negative mothers (8.7% vs. 3.6%; relative risk = 2.4; p = 0.0002). The researchers stratified the effect of maternal HIV infection on postneonatal death according to birth weight and placental malaria infection to control for potential confounding. They found that, when compared with normal birth weight infants born to seronegative mothers with no placental malaria infection, low birth weight infants born to HIV-1 positive mothers with placental malaria had an 11.49 increased odds of dying during the postneonatal period. The multivariate analysis showed that an infant born to an HIV-infected mother with placental malaria was 4.5 times more likely to die during the first year of life than an infant born to a mother with only placental malaria and 2.7-7.7 times (depending on birth weight) more likely to die than an infant born to a mother with only HIV infection. These findings suggest that malaria chemoprophylaxis during pregnancy would reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission from mother to infant in addition to reducing the burden of malaria infection during pregnancy, malaria-associated low birth weight, and their subsequent effect on child survival.