Prevalence of Plasmodium falciparum infection in pregnant women in Gabon
1 Département de Parasitologie, Mycologie, Médecine Tropicale, Université des Sciences de la Santé, Libreville, Gabon
2 Medical Research Unit, Albert Schweitzer Hospital, Lambaréné, Gabon
3 Department of Human Parasitology, Institute for Tropical Medicine, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
4 UNICEF, Niamey, Niger
Malaria Journal 2003, 2:18 doi:10.1186/1475-2875-2-18Published: 25 June 2003
In areas where malaria is endemic, pregnancy is associated with increased susceptibility to malaria. It is generally agreed that this risk ends with delivery and decreases with the number of pregnancies. Our study aimed to demonstrate relationships between malarial parasitaemia and age, gravidity and anaemia in pregnant women in Libreville, the capital city of Gabon.
Peripheral blood was collected from 311 primigravidae and women in their second pregnancy. Thick blood smears were checked, as were the results of haemoglobin electrophoresis. We also looked for the presence of anaemia, fever, and checked whether the volunteers had had chemoprophylaxis. The study was performed in Gabon where malaria transmission is intense and perennial.
A total of 177 women (57%) had microscopic parasitaemia; 139 (64%)of them were primigravidae, 38 (40%) in their second pregnancy and 180 (64%) were teenagers. The parasites densities were also higher in primigravidae and teenagers. The prevalence of anaemia was 71% and was associated with microscopic Plasmodium falciparum parasitaemia: women with moderate or severe anaemia had higher parasite prevalences and densities. However, the sickle cell trait, fever and the use of chemoprophylaxis did not have a significant association with the presence of P. falciparum.
These results suggest that the prevalence of malaria and the prevalence of anaemia, whether associated with malaria or not, are higher in pregnant women in Gabon. Primigravidae and young pregnant women are the most susceptible to infection. It is, therefore, urgent to design an effective regimen of malaria prophylaxis for this high risk population.