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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2002 Jun;66(6):641-8.

High prevalence of asymptomatic Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum infections in native Amazonian populations.

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Department of Parasitology, University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil.


The epidemiology of malaria in 2 riverine localities in Rondĵnia, Brazilian western Amazĵnia, was assessed by a 1-year study at Portuchuelo, and a cross-sectional survey at riverine communities at Rio Machado (= Ji-Parana). Plasmodium spp. infections were diagnosed by light microscopy and by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification of ribosomal DNA. PCR was 6-7 times more efficient than microscopy for detecting plasmodial infections. Both Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum infections occurred as asymptomatic and symptomatic forms of the disease. The relation between symptomatic and asymptomatic clinical forms was roughly similar for both species of Plasmodium. Symptomless patients were monitored for 2 months. The prevalence of symptomless infections was 4-5 times higher than the symptomatic ones--respectively, 20% and 4.6% for Portuchuelo and 49.5% and 10% for Ji-Parana. Symptomatic malaria occurred mostly in patients in younger age groups. In contrast, there was a significant association of symptomless malaria with older age groups (medians of 26.5 and 21 years, respectively, for Portuchuelo and Ji-Parana), whereas the age medians for symptomatic malaria were 14 and 8 years, respectively, in the 2 regions. Symptomatic malaria also was more prevalent in groups living for shorter times in Amazĵnia (13 and 4 years, respectively, for Portuchuelo and Ji-ParanA) as compared with symptomless malaria, which was more prevalent in groups living for longer periods in the region (medians of 25.5 and 18 years, respectively, for Portuchuelo and Ji-Paraná). The high prevalence of symptomless malaria may pose new problems for the currently adopted strategy for the control of malaria in the Amazonian region, which is essentially based on the treatment of symptomatic patients.

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