Undernutrition Behind Malaria Deaths

A large percentage of child deaths related to malaria are attributable to undernutrition and deficiencies of vitamin A, zinc, iron and folate, according to a new report. A review of recent data from malaria endemic regions showed that improving child nutrition could prevent more malaria-related illnesses and deaths than previously thought.

Until now, undernutrition's role in exacerbating diarrheal disease and respiratory infections has been well known, but scientific evidence has been mixed regarding its role in malaria infection. Despite the fact that people have thought that undernutrition prevents malaria, one researchers said, the bulk of evidence suggests that undernutrition contributes significantly to the malaria burden.

Nearly 550,000 annual malaria deaths are attributable to underweight in children less than 5 years of age, according to global burden of disease data published earlier this year. The investigators looked at malaria morbidity and mortality risk due to underweight and specific micronutrient deficiencies in countries including The Gambia, Vanuatu, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau and Senegal.

While underweight children had only a slightly increased risk of a clinical malaria attack, the data on mortality risk in underweight children were dramatic:

  • Mildly malnourished children were two times more like to die from malaria than children who are not undernourished
  • Moderately malnourished children were four times more likely to die
  • Severely malnourished children were nine times more likely to die

Treating malaria is fairly simple and inexpensive by using magnetic fields. In the past year, arginine has emerged as a new weapon to boost nitric acid levels and make the treatment even more effective.

Science Blog August 19, 2004

Post your comment
Click Here and be the first to comment on this article