Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ultrasound study provides first direct evidence of effect of malaria on fetal growth

Date:
February 9, 2012
Source:
Wellcome Trust
Summary:
A study of almost 3,800 pregnancies has provided the most accurate and direct evidence to date that malaria infection reduces early fetal growth. Low birth weight is the most important risk factor for neonatal mortality in developing countries. The research, carried out on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, highlights the importance of preventing malaria in pregnancy.

An ultrasound image of a fetus at 24 weeks.
Credit: Wellcome Photo Library, Wellcome Images.

A study of almost 3800 pregnancies has provided the most accurate and direct evidence to date that malaria infection reduces early fetal growth. Low birth weight is the most important risk factor for neonatal mortality in developing countries. The research, carried out on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, highlights the importance of preventing malaria in pregnancy.

According to the World Malaria Report 2011, malaria killed an estimated 655 000 people in 2010. It is caused by parasites such as Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, which are injected into the bloodstream by infected mosquitoes.

Malaria is one of the most common parasitic infections to affect pregnancy. Previous studies have suggested that infection with both P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria during pregnancy reduces birth weight whether maternal symptoms are present or not; however, these studies have been hampered by difficulties in estimating gestational age accurately and diagnosing malaria infection in early pregnancy.

Now, in a study published in the open access journal PLoS One, researchers at the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit on the border of Thailand and Myanmar, part of the Wellcome Trust-Mahidol University-Oxford University Tropical Medicine Research Programme, have used ultrasound scans to provide the first direct evidence of the effect of malaria on fetal growth in pregnancies.

Antenatal ultrasound, which is essential for dating pregnancy accurately, is becoming more widely available in developing countries. The technology also allows doctors or locally trained workers to measure the diameter of the fetus's head. For infections that occur in early pregnancy, the researchers believe that the size of the head may be the most appropriate indicator of growth restriction.

The ultrasound scans revealed that the diameter of the average fetus's head was significantly smaller when malaria infection occurred in the first half of pregnancy when compared to pregnancies unaffected by malaria. On average, at the mid-pregnancy ultrasound scan, the fetuses' heads were 2 per cent smaller when affected by malaria. Even a single infection of treated P. falciparum or P. vivax malaria was associated with reduced fetal head diameter, irrespective of whether the woman had shown symptoms.

However, although a single well-treated malaria episode had an effect on fetal head size at mid-trimester, this was not seen at delivery, suggesting that early treatment with effective drugs might allow growth to recover later in pregnancy.

"By using antenatal ultrasound screening, we have provided clear evidence that malaria infection affects the growth of a child in the womb, even when the infection is caught early and treated. This can increase the risk of miscarriage and affect the child's health in later life," explains Dr Marcus Rijken, first author on the study.

"Strategies to prevent malaria in pregnancy have focused on the second half of pregnancy, when most of the fetal weight gain takes place, but our works suggests that we need to broaden our efforts to focus on the first trimester, too. We need to make sure that pregnant woman are educated about the risks of malaria in pregnancy and, where possible, in areas of high risk offer preventative medication from early pregnancy onwards."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Wellcome Trust. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Marcus J. Rijken, Aris T. Papageorghiou, Supan Thiptharakun, Suporn Kiricharoen, Saw Lu Mu Dwell, Jacher Wiladphaingern, Mupawjay Pimanpanarak, Stephen H. Kennedy, Franηois Nosten, Rose McGready. Ultrasound Evidence of Early Fetal Growth Restriction after Maternal Malaria Infection. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (2): e31411 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031411

Cite This Page:

Wellcome Trust. "Ultrasound study provides first direct evidence of effect of malaria on fetal growth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 February 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120209172808.htm>.
Wellcome Trust. (2012, February 9). Ultrasound study provides first direct evidence of effect of malaria on fetal growth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120209172808.htm
Wellcome Trust. "Ultrasound study provides first direct evidence of effect of malaria on fetal growth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120209172808.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

Beatings and Addiction: Pakistan Drug 'clinic' Tortures Patients

AFP (July 24, 2014) — A so-called drugs rehab 'clinic' is closed down in Pakistan after police find scores of ‘patients’ chained up alleging serial abuse. Duration 03:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Too Few Teens Receiving HPV Vaccination, CDC Says

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is blaming doctors for the low number of children being vaccinated for HPV. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) — Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins