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Is Malaria Dangerous During Pregnancy?

In just about any cause of any woman who experiences an abnormal behavior, loss of consciousness, symptoms of fetal distress, fever, premature labor or comity crises, it always rise a question: “Does she have malaria?”

Is Malaria Dangerous During Pregnancy

Table of Contents

What Is Malaria?

Malaria represents an infectious illness that characterizes tropical regions – most commonly Central America, South America, Africa and South East Asia – which can put in danger the lives of patients. This infection is part of the parasitosis class, which include diseases caused by parasites, namely protozoa. Malaria is a disease caused by the protozoa Plasmodium, which is transmitted through a vector insect, the mosquito anophele female.

What Is the Difference between a Bacteria and Protozoa?

Bacteria and protozoa aren`t that related! Bacteria are classified as prokaryotes, while protists as eukaryotes, meaning that protozoa are more related to human beings than to bacteria. The 2 organisms are different from the structural point of view. Bacterial cells don`t have a nucleus, while protozoa contain organelles, like mitochondria.

Protozoa are usually bigger than bacteria, and often feed on bacteria. All protozoa “feed” by enveloping the prey within vacuoles, which are small pockets. Bacteria absorb nutrients through cell walls. Bacteria reproduce through simple binary fission almost all the time. While this particular method is used by some protozoa, other ones split into more than 2 offspring, while others reproduce sexually.

Signs & Symptoms

The mosquito might infect the person if it`s the protozoan carrier. However, people can become infected, although more rarely, by simply getting into contact with infected blood as well. The transmission of this illness can be vertical as well, meaning from the infected pregnant woman to her baby. This disease cannot be taken if we only sit around an infected person. Patients with this illness blame various symptoms such as:

In severe malaria cases, the condition of the patient might be complicated by various disorders of hepatic, cardiac, renal, cerebral and pulmonary functions.

Is Malaria Dangerous during Pregnancy?

Malaria can be dangerous during pregnancy, being associated with serious complications that occur more commonly in non-immune persons. In certain areas like Thailand, malaria represents the main cause of maternal mortality. Cerebral malaria has 50% mortality during pregnancy. Placental auto-transfusion which happens in the 3rd stage of labor might lead to fatal lung edema. Hypoglycemia might be a characteristic of malaria during pregnancy (no matter if quinine is administered or not).

Can Malaria Affect the Fetus?

Malaria during pregnancy poses possible risks for the life of the unborn baby. Therefore, an expecting mother diagnosed with malaria needs to ask for immediate medical assistance in order to reduce any risks for her pregnancy.

Here`re some of the complications which the fetus may experience if his mother has malaria.

Low Birth Weight

Placenta is able to predict malaria parasites and as a consequence, it prevents the supply of nutrients and oxygen. This may lead to babies being born with delayed intrauterine growth and low birth weight. Babies born less than 5.5 pounds have less survival chances.

Vertical Transmission

Another obvious risk is the infection being spread from the mother to the baby. When the mother is diagnosed early and starts taking drugs, then unborn babies may remain unaffected. Still, doctors recommend newborn blood screening after birth to exclude any infection.

Preterm Delivery

Plasmodium falciparum infects the placenta in which the malaria parasites multiply. The placenta being infected with malaria carries antibodies, macrophages and cytokines, triggering an active immune response, therefore stimulating premature labor.

Can Malaria Cause Birth Defects?

This illness kills among 1.000.000 people every year, especially pregnant women and children. Malaria during pregnancy represents a major cause of mortality among expecting mothers and of low birth weight, predisposing to newborn mortality. The illness is produced by infection with the malaria parasite. There`re 2 important species – Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum – that frequently infect expecting mothers in the area of South-east Asia.

Can Malaria Be Sexually Transmitted?

No, this illness isn`t spread from one person to another the same way cold or flu does, and obviously, it can`t be transmitted sexually. You aren`t able to get this disease through sexual contact with other people who are infected with malaria. You can`t get this illness by just having causal contact, such as sitting next to an infected person close to you.

Can Malaria Cause Miscarriage?

This particular illness may increase the miscarriage risk at the onset of pregnancy. However, the treatment that includes antimalarials seems to be safe and doesn`t increase the risk of miscarriage.

According to some studies from the U.K. and Thailand, scientists analyzed info from the medical records of various women that attended clinics of migrants and refugees close to the Thai-Burmese border. Of all this data, over 16.600 had no malaria while pregnant, while almost 950 had one single episode in the 1st trimester of pregnancy.

Which Malaria Drug Is Safe for a Pregnant Woman?

The antimalarial drugs safe to use during pregnancy include:

  • Chloroquine.
  • Amodiaquine.
  • Quinine.
  • Azithromycin.
  • Sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine.
  • Mefloquine.
  • Dapsone-chlorproguanil.
  • Artemisinin derivatives.
  • Atovaquone-proguanil.
  • Lumefantrine.

Antimalarials that shouldn`t be used while pregnant are:

  • Halofantrine.
  • Tetracycline/doxycycline.
  • Halofantrine.

There aren`t many studies regarding humans on the efficacy, safety and pharmacokinetics of antimalarial medications while pregnant. This is also due to the fact that expecting mothers are generally excluded from any clinical trials. The lack of appropriate safety data, mostly in the 1st trimester of pregnancy, is an essential obstacle to developing strategies regarding treatment.

Is There a Malaria Vaccine?

Attempts have been made at developing an efficient vaccine and various clinical trials are ongoing. This disease`s parasite is a very complex organism that has a complicated cycle of life. It has the ability to evade the immunity of the infected person by simply changing its surface constantly, so producing a malaria vaccine is really difficult. Additionally, experts don`t completely understand the immune responses which protect human beings against this illness. Still, lots of specialists around the world are struggling on producing an efficient malaria vaccine. Due to the reason that other ways of fighting this disease, which include insecticides, insecticide-treated bed nets, and medications, haven`t really succeeded in getting rid of this illness, the research for such a vaccine is seen as among the most essential projects in the health industry.

To Remember!

Due to the infectious character of the disease, patients are advised to get in touch with a doctor if they show alarming signs (high fever, chills or myalgia on a general health state), especially if they travel in an endemic region for tropical diseases.

This disease can be prevented if the patient addresses the doctor before traveling in a dangerous area for such illnesses. The doctor can recommend a number of medications that are administered previously, during or after the journey in that specific area. Unfortunately, malaria cannot always be prevented, because some parasites have developed resistance to the action of treatment.

Image courtesy of infectionlandscapes.org

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