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 October 2015
van Eijk AM, Hill J, Noor AM, Snow RW, ter Kuile FO.
BACKGROUND:

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.

METHODS:

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.

FINDINGS:

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.

INTERPRETATION:

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.

FUNDING:

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.