Quantification of the burden and consequences of pregnancy-associated malaria in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

01 Dec 2011
Taylor SM, van Eijk AM, Hand CC, Mwandagalirwa K, Messina JP, Tshefu AK, Atua B, Emch M, Muwonga J, Meshnick SR, Ter Kuile FO.

Pregnancy-associated malaria (PAM) produces poor birth outcomes, but its prevalence is commonly estimated in convenience samples.


We assessed the prevalence of malaria using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and estimated the consequences of infection on birth outcomes, using specimens from a nationally representative sample of 4570 women of childbearing age (WOCBA) responding to the 2007 Demographic and Health Survey in Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).


Overall, 31.2% (95% confidence interval [CI], 29.2-33.1) of WOCBA were parasitemic, which was significantly more common in pregnant (37.2% [31.0-43.5]) than nonpregnant women (30.4% [CI, 28.4-32.5], prevalence ratio [PR] 1.22 [1.02-1.47]). Plasmodium falciparum was highest among pregnant women (36.6% vs 28.8%, PR 1.27 [1.05-1.53]). By contrast, P malariae was less common in pregnant (0.6%) compared with nonpregnant women (2.7%, PR 0.23 [0.09-0.56]). Extrapolation of the prevalence estimate to the population at risk of malaria in DRC suggests 1.015 million births are affected by P falciparum infection annually, and that adherence to preventive measures could prevent up to 549 000 episodes of pregnancy-associated malaria and 47 000 low-birth-weight births.


Pregnancy-associated malaria and its consequences are highly prevalent in the DRC. Increasing the uptake of malariapreventive measures represents a significant opportunity to improve birth outcomes and neonatal health.