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'Mild' malaria strain is more deadly

P. vivax, a strain of malaria thought to be mild and non-life-threatening is potentially fatal, according to a new study.

health and fitness Updated: Jun 18, 2008 14:56 IST

P. vivax, a strain of malaria thought to be mild and non-life-threatening is potentially fatal, according to a new study.

Two malaria strains, P. vivax and P. falciparum, affect human beings. Traditionally the latter, the dominant strain in Africa, is considered to be the more virulent and deadly strain.

But P. vivax accounts for 400 million cases every year in Asia, with about 300 cases reported annually in patients returning to Australia from malaria endemic countries. In Indonesia, the parasite has developed resistance to standard treatments.

The new research has shown that P. vivax is far from benign, and is responsible for a significant illness with high rates of severe disease and death.

The paper also shows that in many cases, victims are infected with a mixture of both parasites and that this results in an even higher risk of severe disease than infection with a single parasite.

The study's author Ric Price of Charles Darwin University, said that these findings provide important information about the burden of malaria associated with P. vivax infection.

“Our findings show that in a region where multi-drug-resistant strains of malaria are common, P. vivax infection is associated with severe and fatal malaria, particularly in young children,” he said.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal PLoS Medicine.