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Plasmodium falciparum malaria in the first year of life in an area of intense and perennial transmission

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A longitudinal study of Plasmodium falciparum malaria in infants in Idete village, south-eastern Tanzania, was conducted over a period of 14 months in order to determine the incidence of P. falciparum infection and clinical malaria in the first year of life. Of 1356 blood slides from cross-sectional surveys, 52.1% were positive for asexual stages of P. falciparum. There were marked increases in P. falciparum prevalence, parasite densities, overall fever incidence and the incidence of malaria fevers with age for the first 6 months of life. The average attack rate, estimated from a reversible catalytic model, was 0.029 per day with a slight increase with age but there was no initial period of protection against infection in neonates. Estimated average duration of infections was 64 days, with infections in older infants lasting much longer than those contracted during the first 2 months of life.

These results support the hypotheses that the main effect of passively transferred maternal immunity to malaria is in the control of asexual stage parasites, and that the level of clinical immunity depends upon the extent of recent exposure to parasites. Infants as young as 4 months of age are at high risk of clinical attacks. Intervention programmes against malaria in areas of the highest transmission should therefore be designed to include this group.
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Keywords: Plasmodium falciparum; Tanzania; epidemiology; fever; immunity; infection; malaria; parasitaemia

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Ifakara Centre, Ifakara, Tanzania 2: Swiss Tropical Institute, Basel, Switzerland 3: Hospital Clinic I Provincial, Barcelona, Spain

Publication date: 1996-08-01

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