Issue: March 2012
February 16, 2012
1 min read

New estimations put malaria mortality rates higher than earlier WHO reports

Murray CJ. Lancet. 2012;379:413-431.

Issue: March 2012
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Efforts to increase access to bed nets and artemisinin-based drugs have made a significant dent in malaria rates, but the rates remain high, according to the latest data.

Christopher Murray, MD, PhD, and colleagues from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington in Seattle examined all available data from 105 countries from 1980 to 2010 to assess malaria mortality rates in adults and children using national and subnational vital registration and verbal autopsy studies.

The study reported that global malaria deaths “increased from 995,000 in 1980 to a peak of 1,817,000 in 2004, and decreased to 1,238,000 in 2010.” The 2010 rate from this study is nearly double of that estimated by WHO.

The estimates of malaria mortality were “substantially different than those previously published,” the researchers wrote.

Malaria deaths outside of Africa have steadily decreased, from 502,000 in 1980 to 104,000 in 2010, but deaths in Africa saw a dramatic increase from 493,000 in 1980 to 1,613,000 in 2004, according to the researchers.

There was an approximate 30% decrease in malaria deaths in Africa in 2010, mainly due to increased efforts from organizations such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, but the continent continues to struggle with the mortality burden of malaria. Researchers said the rates of worldwide malaria deaths are closely related to patterns in sub-Saharan Africa.

The IHME data suggest that malaria deaths in 2010 among children were much higher than previously estimated — 524,000 deaths compared with the 91,000 estimated by WHO, and 24% of total child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa vs. the 16% previously calculated.

“Our findings show that the malaria mortality burden is larger than previously estimated, especially in adults,” the researchers wrote, adding that the median proportion of deaths in those adults was 76% and 69%, respectively, in Asia and the Americas. “There has been a rapid decrease in malaria mortality in Africa because of the scaling up of control activities supported by international donors. Donor support, however, needs to be increased if malaria elimination and eradication and broader health and development goals are to be met.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.

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