Clinical signs and symptoms cannot reliably predict Plasmodium falciparum malaria infection in pregnant women living in an area of high seasonal transmission

M.C. Tahita, H. Tinto, J. Menten, J.B. Ouedraogo, R.T. Guiguemde, J.P. Van geertruyden, A. Erhart, U. D'Alessandro

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BACKGROUND: Malaria in pregnancy is a major public health problem in endemic countries. Though the signs and symptoms of malaria among pregnant women have been already described, clinical presentation may vary according to intensity of transmission and local perceptions. Therefore, determining common signs and symptoms among pregnant women with a malaria infection may be extremely useful to identify those in need of further investigation by rapid diagnostic test or microscopy. METHODS: Six hundred pregnant women attending the maternity clinic of Nanoro District Hospital, Burkina Faso were recruited, 200 with suspected clinical malaria and 400 as controls. Cases were matched with controls by gestational age and parity. Signs and symptoms were collected and a blood sample taken for rapid diagnostic test, microscopy and haemoglobin measurement. A multivariate model was used to assess the predictive value of signs and symptoms for malaria infection. RESULTS: The overall prevalence of malaria was 42.6% (256/600) while anaemia was found in 60.8% (365/600) of the women. Nearly half (49%) of the cases and 39.5% of the controls had a malaria infection (p = 0.03). The most common signs and symptoms among the cases were fever (36%,72/200), history of fever (29%,58/200) and headache (52%,104/200). The positive predictive value for fever was 53% (95% CI:41-64), history of fever 58% (95% CI:37-63) and headache 51% (95% CI:41-61). CONCLUSION: Signs and symptoms suggestive of malaria are frequent among pregnant women living in areas of intense transmission. Common malaria symptoms are not strong predictors of infection. For a better management of malaria in pregnancy, active screening to detect and treat malaria infection early should be performed on all pregnant women attending a health facility.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMalaria Journal
Issue number464
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Protozoal diseases
  • Malaria
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Vectors
  • Mosquitoes
  • Anopheles
  • Women
  • Pregnancy
  • Diagnosis
  • Screening
  • Clinical
  • Signs and symptoms
  • Clinical examination
  • Referral
  • Hospitalization
  • Rapid diagnostic tests
  • Microscopy
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Burkina Faso
  • Africa-West


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