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All malaria infections are harmful to both the pregnant mother and the developing fetus. One in ten maternal deaths in malaria endemic countries are estimated to result from Plasmodium falciparum infection. Malaria is associated with a 3-4 times increased risk of miscarriage and a substantially increased risk of stillbirth. Current treatment and prevention strategies reduce, but do not eliminate, malaria's damaging effects on pregnancy outcomes. Reviewing evidence generated from meta-analyses, systematic reviews, and observational data, the first paper in this Series aims to summarise the adverse effects of malaria in pregnancy on the fetus and how the current drug treatment and prevention strategies can alleviate these effects. Although evidence supports the safety and treatment efficacy of artemisinin-based combination therapies in the first trimester, these therapies have not been recommended by WHO for the treatment of malaria at this stage of pregnancy. Intermittent preventive treatment of malaria in pregnancy with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine is contraindicated in the first trimester and provides imperfect chemoprevention because of inadequate dosing, poor (few and late) antenatal clinic attendance, increasing antimalarial drug resistance, and decreasing naturally acquired maternal immunity due to the decreased incidence of malaria. Alternative strategies to prevent malaria in pregnancy are needed. The prevention of all malaria infections by providing sustained exposure to effective concentrations of antimalarial drugs is key to reducing the adverse effects of malaria in pregnancy.

Original publication





The Lancet. Child & adolescent health

Publication Date





761 - 774


Division of Infectious Diseases, Advanced Clinical Research Center, The Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.