Congenital Malaria in Newborns Delivered to Mothers with Malaria-Infected Placenta in Blue Nile State, Sudan


Diagnosis of congenital malaria is complicated by the low density of the parasite circulating in the cord blood and/or the peripheral blood of the newborns. Molecular techniques are significantly more sensitive than blood smears in detecting low-level parasitemia. This study investigated the prevalence of congenital malaria by the use of the real-time polymerase chain reaction (real-time PCR) in 102 babies born to mothers with microscopically confirmed infected placenta from Blue Nile state, Sudan. At delivery time, placental, maternal peripheral and cord blood samples in addition to samples collected from the newborns’ peripheral blood were examined for malaria infection using Giemsa-stained thick smear and parasite DNA detection by real-time PCR. The overall prevalence of congenital malaria includes the total babies with cord blood parasitaemia and peripheral blood parasitaemia was 18.6 and 56.8% using microscopy and real-time PCR, respectively. Even though all the neonates were aparasitaemic by microscopy, 19 (18.6%) of the babies had congenital malaria detected by real-time PCR, 15 (25.9%) of the babies with congenital malaria were born to mothers with both placental and peripheral blood malaria infections detected using the two techniques. Congenital malaria was significantly associated with cord blood malaria infections, maternal age and maternal haemoglobin level (p < 0.001). This first study investigating congenital malaria in Blue Nile state, Sudan shows that malaria-infected placenta resulted in infant and cord blood infections.

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