Clinical manifestations of severe malaria in the highlands of Southwestern Uganda

Richard Idro, Edward Bitarakwate, Sam Tumwesigire, Chandy C. John

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


Epidemics of malaria have occurred in highland areas of East Africa since the 1980s, but the clinical spectrum of severe malaria in these areas has not been described. Over a 17-month period from 2001 to 2002, we assessed 117 consecutive patients admitted to Kabale Hospital in highland Uganda who met the World Health Organization 2000 criteria for severe malaria. Sixty-six persons (56.4%) were age 5 years or older, and 51 (43.6%) were under 5 years of age. Fever, vomiting, and cough were the most frequent symptoms. Hepatomegaly and splenomegaly were infrequent. Prostration was the most frequent manifestation of severe malaria in children under 5 years of age (45.1%) and persons 5 years or older (65.2%), followed by respiratory distress (29.4%) and severe anemia (19.6%) in children under 5 years, and respiratory distress (15.2%) and impaired consciousness (13.6%) in persons 5 years or older. Strictly defined cerebral malaria was uncommon (3.4%). In a multivariate regression model, children under 5 years were more likely than persons 5 years or older to present with severe anemia (OR 5.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-21.9) and respiratory distress (OR 3.5, 95% CI 1.3-11.1) and less likely to present with prostration (OR 0.3, 95% CI 0.1-0.7) and impaired consciousness (OR 0.2, 95% CI 0.0-0.9). In highland Uganda, severe malaria often occurs in persons older than 5 years of age. "Typical" signs like splenomegaly are frequently absent, prostration is the major manifestation, and other manifestations vary in frequency according to age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)561-567
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Infectious Diseases

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