NIH study finds no clear link between malaria severity and parasite levels

A recent study examining a possible relationship between malaria severity and the amount of disease-causing parasites in the blood found no clear link between the two.

The National Institutes for Health (NIH) study regularly examined 852 Tanzanian children from birth to an average of about two years. The research discovered that higher parasite density in the blood does not necessarily translate into more severe malaria, leading the study to conclude that severity is not solely determined by parasite levels.

The study also found that severe malaria is not always prevented if children had milder infections from the disease in the past. The research team noted that the NIH study was the first to conclude that the threat of severe malaria remained stable over the course of several infections, contradicting other mathematical models that have found that children build up immunity after coming into contact with the disease.

The research suggests that new malaria vaccines be developed using naturally-acquired immunity.

The research team was led by Dr. Patrick E. Duffy of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which is part of NIH.

Malaria kills approximately 600,000 children in Africa every year, though most cases of the mosquito-borne disease are mild. Severe cases of malaria are unusual for children over the age of five.