Risk Factors for Severe Malaria People who develop severe and complicated malaria lack adequate immunity, and many die from the disease. Groups at greatest risk include young children and pregnant women in malaria endemic regions; nonimmune migrants, laborers, and visitors to endemic regions; and residents of regions where malaria has been recently reintroduced. For reasons that are largely unknown, not all individuals within these groups appear to be at equal risk for severe disease. The committee believes that the determinants of severe disease, including risk factors associated with a population, the individual (biologic, immunologic, socioeconomic, and behavioral), the parasite, or exposure to mosquitoes, are likely to vary considerably in different areas.
The committee recommends that epidemiologic studies on the risk factors for severe and complicated malaria be supported.
Pathogenesis of Severe and Complicated Malaria Even with optimal care, 20 to 30 percent of children and adults with the most severe form of malaria—primarily cerebral malaria—die. The committee believes that a better understanding of the disease process will lead to improvements in preventing and treating severe forms of malaria. The committee further believes that determining the indications for treatment of severe malarial anemia is of special urgency given the risk of transmitting the AIDS virus through blood transfusions, the only currently available treatment for malarial anemia. Physicians need to know when it is appropriate to transfuse malaria patients.
The committee recommends greater support for research on the pathogenesis of severe and complicated malaria, on the mechanisms of malarial anemia, and on the development of specific criteria for blood transfusions in malaria.
Social Science Research The impact of drugs to control disease or programs to reduce human-mosquito contact is mediated by local practices and beliefs about malaria and its treatment. Most people in malaria-endemic countries seek initial treatment for malaria outside of the formal health sector. Programs that attempt to influence this behavior must understand that current practices satisfy, at some level, local concerns regarding such matters as access to and effectiveness of therapy, and cost. These concerns may lead to practices at odds with current medical practice. Further, many malaria control programs have not considered the social, cultural, and behavioral dimensions of malaria, thereby limiting the effectiveness of measures undertaken. The committee recognizes that control programs often fail to incorporate household or community concerns and resources