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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1989 Nov-Dec;83(6):762-6.

Activation of the coagulation cascade in falciparum malaria.

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Bangkok Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Thailand.


The incidence and progression of coagulation abnormalities were studied in 52 patients with acute falciparum malaria. The patients were prospectively divided into 3 groups; severe (parasitaemia greater than or equal to 5% or vital organ dysfunction), 12 patients; moderate (parasitaemia 1%- less than 5% without complications), 16 patients; and mild (parasitaemia less than 1%), 24 patients. No case died or developed clinical evidence of disseminated intravascular coagulation. Conventional indices of coagulation (prothrombin time, partial thromboplastin time, fibrinogen, fibrin degradation products) were usually within the normal range but reduced plasma concentrations of antithrombin III (AT-III) levels were noted in all groups, and the incidence was significantly higher in patients with severe and moderate malaria (83% and 81%) compared with the mild group (37%; P less than 0.005). Depletion of AT-III was associated with thrombocytopenia, decreased AT-III activity and elevated plasma concentrations of thrombin-antithrombin III complexes (P less than 0.01), confirming activation of the coagulation cascade and increased clotting factor consumption. AT-III levels returned to normal coincident with clinical improvement. Activation of coagulation is a common and sensitive measure of disease activity in acute falciparum malaria. It is not a specific feature, nor is there evidence to suggest it has a primary pathological role in severe infections.

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