Worldwide Adult Malaria Deaths Underestimated, Study Suggests

Authors of a paper in The Lancet estimated a range of 125,000 to 277,000 annual deaths in India, the most populous country where malaria is common, although WHO estimates only 15,000 per year there.

Authors of a paper published Oct. 21 in The Lancet estimated a range of 125,000 to 277,000 annual deaths in India, the most populous country where malaria is common, although WHO estimates only 15,000 per year there. They say both the estimate for India and the WHO estimate for adult malaria deaths worldwide should be reconsidered.

The authors work at agencies, medical facilities, universities, and institutes in New Delhi, Bangalore, Washington, D.C., Toronto, and Oxford, England. They attempted to estimate the plausible range of malarial mortality in India using field reports for the 122,000 deaths in 2001-2003 in 6,671 randomly selected areas of the country. They write that the malaria cases reported to the Indian government are concentrated in a few eastern and northeastern states; the country's national malaria programme "misses most deaths caused by malaria," they assert.

WHO currently estimates 5,000 Indians die in early childhood and an additional 10,000 older citizens die each year from malaria.

Another development causing concern is a pair of reports in the Oct. 22 issue of the journal Science in which researchers report the major malaria-transmitting mosquito species, Anopheles gambiae, is evolving into two separate species with different traits. This could complicate malaria control efforts and might require new disease prevention methods, according to the National Institutes of Health, which funded the research.

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