Malaria parasite positivity among febrile neonates

  • COA Enyuma
  • MM Meremikwu
  • JJ Udo
  • MU Anah
  • AA Asindi


Background: Malaria, earlier considered rare in neonates, has been reported with increasing frequency in the last decade. Neonatal malaria diagnosis is challenging because the clinical features are non-specific, variable and also overlap with bacterial infection.
Aim: To determine the prevalence of neonatal malaria and the associated
clinical features in newborn babies with fever.
Patients and methods: One hundred and fifty neonates with fever admitted into the Newborn unit of the University of Calabar Teaching Hospital, over a six month period, were recruited consecutively. Symptoms and signs for each neonate were documented. Blood film for malaria parasites and investigation for sepsis workup were done before commencement of drugs.
Results: One hundred and fifty babies were recruited. Most (85.3%) of the babies were aged .7 days. One hundred and thirty six (90.7%) of the mothers were booked for antenatal care (ANC). Most of the babies were from primiparous women (54.7%). Six babies (4%) had malaria  parasitaemia with four (2.7%) being congenital malaria and two (1.3%)
acquired malaria. Plasmodium falciparum was the only species identified. All six with malaria were from the 136 booked mothers. Four of the affected six neonates also had septicaemia. The clinical features in babies with malaria only were, fever, fast breathing and jaundice while those
with malaria and bacterial co-infection had, in addition, poor suck.
Conclusion: Malaria infection and septicemia can coexist in some Nigerian newborns and since the clinical presentation of each of these condition are closely similar, it is recommend that malaria parasite investigation be included as part of the investigation in the newborns with fever. This approach can help to avoid a delay in applying the appropriate therapeutic

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