Unusual clinical spectra of childhood severe malaria during malaria epidemic in eastern Uganda: a prospective study

Namayanja, Cate; Eregu, Egiru Emma Isaiah; Ongodia, Paul; Okalebo, Charles Benard; Okiror, William; Okello, Francis; Okibure, Ambrose; Paasi, George; Kakungulu, Hellen; Grace, Abongo; Muhindo, Rita; Banks, Duncan; Martin, Chebet; Taylor-Robinson, Simon and Olupot-Olupot, Peter (2023). Unusual clinical spectra of childhood severe malaria during malaria epidemic in eastern Uganda: a prospective study. Malaria Journal, 22(1), article no. 169.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12936-023-04586-3


Background In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), malaria remains a public health problem despite recent reports of declining incidence. Severe malaria is a multiorgan disease with wide-ranging clinical spectra and outcomes that have been reported to vary by age, geographical location, transmission intensity over time. There are reports of recent malaria epidemics or resurgences, but few data, if any, focus on the clinical spectrum of severe malaria during epidemics. This describes the clinical spectrum and outcomes of childhood severe malaria during the disease epidemic in Eastern Uganda.

Methods This prospective cohort study from October 1, 2021, to September 7, 2022, was nested within the ‘Malaria Epidemiological, Pathophysiological and Intervention studies in Highly Endemic Eastern Uganda’ (TMA2016SF-1514-MEPIE Study) at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, Uganda. Children aged 60 days to 12 years who at admission tested positive for malaria and fulfilled the clinical WHO criteria for surveillance of severe malaria were enrolled on the study. Follow-up was performed until day 28. Data were collected using a customized proforma on social demographic characteristics, clinical presentation, treatment, and outcomes. Laboratory analyses included complete blood counts, malaria RDT (SD BIOLINE Malaria Ag P.f/Pan, Ref. 05FK60-40-1) and blood slide, lactate, glucose, blood gases and electrolytes. In addition, urinalysis using dipsticks (Multistix® 10 SG, SIEMENS, Ref.2300) at the bedside was done. Data were analysed using STATA V15.0. The study had prior ethical approval.

Results A total of 300 participants were recruited. The median age was 4.6 years, mean of 57.2 months and IQR of 44.5 months. Many children, 164/300 (54.7%) were under 5 years, and 171/300 (57.0%) were males. The common clinical features were prostration 236/300 (78.7%), jaundice in 205/300 (68.3%), severe malarial anaemia in 158/300 (52.7%), black water fever 158/300 (52.7%) and multiple convulsions 51/300 (17.0%), impaired consciousness 50/300(16.0%), acidosis 41/300(13.7%), respiratory distress 26/300(6.7%) and coma in 18/300(6.0%). Prolonged hospitalization was found in 56/251 (22.3%) and was associated with acidosis, P = 0.041. The overall mortality was 19/300 (6.3%). Day 28 follow-up was achieved in 247/300 (82.3%).

Conclusion During the malaria epidemic in Eastern Uganda, severe malaria affected much older children and the spectrum had more of prostration, jaundice severe malarial anaemia, black water fever and multiple convulsions with less of earlier reported respiratory distress and cerebral malaria.

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