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Until recently, Plasmodium falciparum dominated the malaria research landscape, and Plasmodium vivax infection was considered benign and inconsequential. We now know that this is not true: if not properly diagnosed and treated, P. vivax can lead to life-threatening syndromes and death. Professor Kevin Baird from EOCRU in Jakarta, Indonesia talks to OutBreak News Today

Out of the five Plasmodium species that cause malaria, two are responsible for 95% of the burden of infections globally: Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax.

P. vivax is the most geographically widespread malaria parasite: it occurs as far north as the Korean peninsula and all across the tropics: in the Americas, Africa, South and Southeast and Northeast Asia. People who live in impoverished and isolated areas without good access to good care are most at risk.

Professor Kevin Baird talks about differences in pathology and problems with diagnosis, and the dormant liver stage that acts as an important hiding place for latent infection.

P. vivax takes an unrealised toll on human health and global health. It’s a northern clinical bias to view the harm done by malaria as limited to the acute attack of malaria. In endemic areas, it’s not just that one episode, it’s years of being exposed to both repeated attacks from mosquito bites and from the liver. The patient may not be having an acute attack and soaring fever and chills, but eventually, over years, this takes a toll on human health and increases the risk of hospitalisation and death.
Professor Kevin Baird

Our understanding of the biology of P. vivax is fast changing how we view this infection. This emerging understanding shows that the traditional view that we have on malaria, clinically and from a public health perspective, and based on what we see on peripheral blood is inadequate. The biology of this parasite exceeds the abilities of that means of diagnosis and surveillance

Read the publication ‘The global burden of Plasmodium vivax malaria is obscure and insidious’ on the PLOS Medicine website

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