Plasmodium vivax is the most widespread malaria parasite worldwide. It is the predominant cause of malaria in the vast majority of countries outside Africa. P. vivax, can 'hide' undetected in the liver. Researchers have now revealed that most childhood malaria infections in the endemic areas are the result of relapsed, and not new, infections. This finding suggests that eliminating malaria in the Asia-Pacific could prove to be more challenging than previously thought.
The researchers observed that four out of five children in Papua New Guinea (PNG) aged five to 10 years old were susceptible to recurring infection with the malaria parasite.
‘80% of childhood malaria infections in the endemic areas are the result of relapsed, and not new, infections. Therefore, eliminating malaria in the Asia-Pacific could prove to be more challenging than previously thought.’
The discovery has significant repercussions for the country's, and region's, malaria control program, as well as other areas globally where P. vivax is a significant cause of malaria, such as Central and South America, South and South-East Asia and the Middle East.
Leanne Robinson said, "The research showed relapsing infections with P. vivax were responsible for 80% of infections in PNG children aged five to 10 years. P. vivax malaria was problematic for global malaria control efforts, especially in PNG and the Asia-Pacific where it is the major cause of infection and illness in young children."
The research is published in PLOS Medicine.