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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Plasmodium vivax associated severe malaria complications among children in some malaria endemic areas of Ethiopia

Tsige Ketema* and Ketema Bacha

Author Affiliations

Department of Biology, College of Natural Sciences, Jimma University, P. O. Box 378, Jimma, Ethiopia

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:637  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-637

Published: 8 July 2013



Although, Plasmodium vivax is a rare parasite in most parts of Africa, it has significant public health importance in Ethiopia. In some parts of the country, it is responsible for majority of malaria associated morbidity. Recently severe life threatening malaria syndromes, frequently associated to P. falciparum, has been reported from P. vivax mono-infections. This prompted designing of the current study to assess prevalence of severe malaria complications related to P. vivax malaria in Ethiopia.


The study was conducted in two study sites, namely Kersa and Halaba Kulito districts, located in southwest and southern parts of Ethiopia, respectively. Children, aged ≤ 10 years, who visited the two health centers during the study period, were recruited to the study. Clinical and demographic characteristics such as age, sex, temperature, diarrhea, persistent vomiting, confusion, respiratory distress, hepatomegaly, splenomegaly, hemoglobinuria, and epitaxis were assessed for a total of 139 children diagnosed to have P. vivax mono-infection. Parasitological data were collected following standard procedures. Hemoglobin and glucose level were measured using portable hemocue instrument.


Median age of children was 4.25 ± 2.95 years. Geometric mean parasite count and mean hemoglobin level were 4254.89 parasite/μl and 11.55 g/dl, respectively. Higher prevalence rate of malaria and severe malaria complications were observed among children enrolled in Halaba district (P < 0.001). However, severe parasitemia was higher (72.4%) among children who visited Serbo health center (Kersa district). Male children had significantly higher risk of malaria infection (OR = 1.9, 95% CI, 1.08 to 3.34), while female had higher risk to anemia (OR = 1.91, 95% CI, 1.08 - 3.34). The observed number of anemic children was 43%, of which most of them were found in age range from 0–3 years. Furthermore, P. vivax malaria was a risk factor for incidence of anemia (P < 0.05) in the two sites.


P. vivax associated severe malaria complications observed in this study was lower than those reported from other countries. However, incidence of severe malaria complications in one of the sites, Halaba district, where there is highest treatment failure to first line drug, could have significant impact on national malaria prevention and control activities.

Anemia; Hemoglobin; Parasitemia; P. vivax; Severe malaria