Prevalence of malaria infection in pregnant women compared with children for tracking malaria transmission in sub-Saharan Africa: a systematic review and meta-analysis

03 Oct 2015
van Eijk AM, Hill J, Noor AM, Snow RW, ter Kuile FO.

In malarious areas, pregnant women are more likely to have detectable malaria than are their non-pregnant peers, and the excess risk of infection varies with gravidity. Pregnant women attending antenatal clinic for their first visit are a potential pragmatic sentinel group to track the intensity of malaria transmission; however, the relation between malaria prevalence in children, a standard measure to estimate malaria endemicity, and pregnant women has never been compared.


We obtained data on malaria prevalence in pregnancy from the Malaria in Pregnancy Library (January, 2015) and data for children (0-59 months) were obtained from recently published work on parasite prevalence in Africa and the Malaria in Pregnancy Library. We used random effects meta-analysis to obtain a pooled prevalence ratio (PPR) of malaria in children versus pregnant women (during pregnancy, not at delivery) and by gravidity, and we used meta-regression to assess factors affecting the prevalence ratio.


We used data from 18 sources that included 57 data points. There was a strong linear relation between the prevalence of malariainfection in pregnant women and children (r=0·87, p<0·0001). Prevalence was higher in children when compared with all gravidae (PPR=1·44, 95% CI 1·29-1·62; I(2)=80%, 57 studies), and against multigravidae (1·94, 1·68-2·24; I(2)=80%, 7 studies), and marginally higher against primigravidae (1·16, 1·05-1·29; I(2)=48%, 8 studies). PPR was higher in areas of higher transmission.


Malaria prevalence in pregnant women is strongly correlated with prevalence data in children obtained from household surveys, and could provide a pragmatic adjunct to survey strategies to track trends in malaria transmission in Africa.


The Malaria in Pregnancy Consortium, which is funded through a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK; US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and Wellcome Trust, UK.