Treatment of Chronic Asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum Infection Does Not Increase the Risk of Clinical Malaria Upon Reinfection.Clin Infect Dis. 2017 03 01; 64(5):645-653.CI
Chronic asymptomatic Plasmodium falciparum infections are common in endemic areas and are thought to contribute to the maintenance of malaria immunity. Whether treatment of these infections increases the subsequent risk of clinical episodes of malaria is unclear.
In a 3-year study in Mali, asymptomatic individuals with or without P. falciparum infection at the end of the 6-month dry season were identified by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), and clinical malaria risk was compared during the ensuing 6-month malaria transmission season. At the end of the second dry season, 3 groups of asymptomatic children were identified: (1) children infected with P. falciparum as detected by rapid diagnostic testing (RDT) who were treated with antimalarials (n = 104), (2) RDT-negative children whose untreated P. falciparum infections were detected retrospectively by PCR (n = 55), and (3) uninfected children (RDT/PCR negative) (n = 434). Clinical malaria risk during 2 subsequent malaria seasons was compared. Plasmodium falciparum-specific antibody kinetics during the dry season were compared in children who did or did not harbor asymptomatic P. falciparum infections.
Chronic asymptomatic P. falciparum infection predicted decreased clinical malaria risk during the subsequent malaria season(s); treatment of these infections did not alter this reduced risk. Plasmodium falciparum-specific antibodies declined similarly in children who did or did not harbor chronic asymptomatic P. falciparum infection during the dry season.
These findings challenge the notion that chronic asymptomatic P. falciparum infection maintains malaria immunity and suggest that mass drug administration during the dry season should not increase the subsequent risk of clinical malaria.