Burden, pathology, and costs of malaria in pregnancy: new developments for an old problem
Over the past 10 years, knowledge of the burden, economic costs, and consequences of malaria in pregnancy has improved, and the prevalence of malaria caused by Plasmodium falciparum has declined substantially in some geographical areas. In particular, studies outside of Africa have increased the evidence base of Plasmodium vivax in pregnancy. Rapid diagnostic tests have been poor at detecting malaria in pregnant women, while PCR has shown a high prevalence of low density infection, the clinical importance of which is unknown. Erythrocytes infected with P falciparum that express the surface protein VAR2CSA accumulate in the placenta, and VAR2CSA is an important target of protective immunity. Clinical trials for a VAR2CSA vaccine are ongoing, but sequence variation needs to be carefully studied. Health system and household costs still limit access to prevention and treatment services. Within the context of malaria elimination, pregnant women could be used to monitor malaria transmission. This Series paper summarises recent progress and highlights unresolved issues related to the burden of malaria in pregnancy.