Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BackgroundSevere malaria in pregnancy causes maternal mortality, morbidity, and adverse foetal outcomes. The factors contributing to adverse maternal and foetal outcomes are not well defined. We aimed to identify the factors predicting higher maternal mortality and to describe the foetal mortality and morbidity associated with severe falciparum malaria in pregnancy.MethodsA retrospective cohort study was conducted of severe falciparum malaria in pregnancy, as defined by the World Health Organization severe malaria criteria. The patients were managed prospectively by the Shoklo Malaria Research Unit (SMRU) on the Thailand-Myanmar border or were included in hospital-based clinical trials in six Southeast Asian countries. Fixed-effects multivariable penalised logistic regression was used for analysing maternal mortality.ResultsWe included 213 (123 SMRU and 90 hospital-based) episodes of severe falciparum malaria in pregnancy managed between 1980 and 2020. The mean maternal age was 25.7 (SD 6.8) years, and the mean gestational age was 25.6 (SD 8.9) weeks. The overall maternal mortality was 12.2% (26/213). Coma (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 7.18, 95% CI 2.01-25.57, p = 0.0002), hypotension (aOR 11.21, 95%CI 1.27-98.92, p = 0.03) and respiratory failure (aOR 4.98, 95%CI 1.13-22.01, p = 0.03) were associated with maternal mortality. Pregnant women with one or more of these three criteria had a mortality of 29.1% (25/86) (95%CI 19.5 to 38.7%) whereas there were no deaths in 88 pregnant women with hyperparasitaemia (> 10% parasitised erythrocytes) only or severe anaemia (haematocrit ConclusionsVital organ dysfunction in pregnant women with severe malaria was associated with a very high maternal and foetal mortality whereas severe anaemia or hyperparasitaemia alone were not associated with poor prognosis, which may explain the variation of reported mortality from severe malaria in pregnancy. Access to antenatal care must be promoted to reduce barriers to early diagnosis and treatment of both malaria and anaemia.

Original publication





BMC medicine

Publication Date





Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, Mahidol-Oxford Tropical Medicine Research Unit, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Mae Sot, Thailand.


Fetus, Humans, Premature Birth, Retrospective Studies, Prospective Studies, Pregnancy, Adult, Infant, Infant, Newborn, Myanmar, Female