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BMJ. 2004 Nov 20;329(7476):1212. Epub 2004 Nov 12.

Overdiagnosis of malaria in patients with severe febrile illness in Tanzania: a prospective study.

Author information

  • 1London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WCIE 7HT. hugh.reyburn@lshtm.ac.uk

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To study the diagnosis and outcomes in people admitted to hospital with a diagnosis of severe malaria in areas with differing intensities of malaria transmission.

DESIGN:

Prospective observational study of children and adults over the course a year.

SETTING:

10 hospitals in north east Tanzania.

PARTICIPANTS:

17,313 patients were admitted to hospital; of these 4474 (2851 children aged under 5 years) fulfilled criteria for severe disease.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE:

Details of the treatment given and outcome. Altitudes of residence (a proxy for transmission intensity) measured with a global positioning system.

RESULTS:

Blood film microscopy showed that 2062 (46.1%) of people treated for malaria had Plasmodium falciparum (slide positive). The proportion of slide positive cases fell with increasing age and increasing altitude of residence. Among 1086 patients aged > or = 5 years who lived above 600 metres, only 338 (31.1%) were slide positive, while in children < 5 years living in areas of intense transmission (< 600 metres) most (958/1392, 68.8%) were slide positive. Among 2375 people who were slide negative, 1571 (66.1%) were not treated with antibiotics and of those, 120 (7.6%) died. The case fatality in slide negative patients was higher (292/2412, 12.1%) than for slide positive patients (142/2062, 6.9%) (P < 0.001). Respiratory distress and altered consciousness were the strongest predictors of mortality in slide positive and slide negative patients and in adults as well as children.

CONCLUSIONS:

In Tanzania, malaria is commonly overdiagnosed in people presenting with severe febrile illness, especially in those living in areas with low to moderate transmission and in adults. This is associated with a failure to treat alternative causes of severe infection. Diagnosis needs to be improved and syndromic treatment considered. Routine hospital data may overestimate mortality from malaria by over twofold.

PMID:
15542534
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC529364
Free PMC Article
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