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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2014 May;108(5):283-9. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/tru040. Epub 2014 Mar 16.

Spleen volume and clinical disease manifestations of severe Plasmodium falciparum malaria in African children.

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Division of Global Health, Department of Emergency Medicine, Yale University School of Medicine, 464 Congress Ave, Suite 260 New Haven, CT 06519, USA.



Plasmodium falciparum malaria is common in African children. Severe disease manifestations include severe malarial anemia (SMA) and cerebral malaria (CM). In vitro studies suggest that splenic sequestration is associated with SMA and protective against CM. We sought to characterize the relationship between ultrasonographically derived spleen volume (SV), clinical manifestations and outcome.


We conducted a prospective observational study of severe malaria and SV in children aged 3 months to 12 years in Eastern Uganda. An SV normogram was generated from 186 healthy controls and adjusted for total body surface area (TBSA). Children with severe P. falciparum malaria were classified according to disease phenotype, and SV z-scores were compared for cases and controls to assess the degree of spleen enlargement.


One hundred and four children with severe malaria, median age 19.2 months, were enrolled; 54 were classified as having SMA and 15 with CM. Mortality was 27% in the CM group vs 1.9% in the SMA group. TBSA-adjusted SV z-scores were lower in children with CM compared to SMA (1.98 [95% CI 1.38-2.57] vs 2.73 [95% CI 2.41-3.04]; p=0.028). Mean SV z-scores were lower in children who died (1.20 [95% CI 0.14-2.25]) compared to survivors (2.58 [95% CI 2.35-2.81]); p=0.004.


SV is lower in CM compared to SMA. Severe malaria with no increase in SV z-score may be associated with mortality.


Africa; Anemia; Falciparum; Malaria; Spleen; Ultrasonography

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