Bacteremia in Malawian children with severe malaria: prevalence, etiology, HIV coinfection, and outcome.

15 Mar 2007
Bronzan RN, Taylor TE, Mwenechanya J, Tembo M, Kayira K, Bwanaisa L, Njobvu A, Kondowe W, Chalira C, Walsh AL, Phiri A, Wilson LK, Molyneux ME, Graham SM


Previous prospective studies of bacteremia in African children with severe malaria have mainly included children with cerebral malaria, and no study has examined the impact of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. We examined the prevalence and etiology of bacteremia and the impact of HIV infection on bacteremia in Malawian children with severe malaria, as well as the impact of bacteremia and HIV infection on outcome.


From 1996 until 2005, blood for culture was obtained on admission from all children admitted with severe malaria during the rainy season to the Paediatric Research Ward at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital in Blantyre, Malawi. HIV testing was performed prospectively from 2001 to 2005 and retrospectively for those admitted from 1996 to 2000. Multivariate regression analysis examined independent risk factors for bacteremia and death.


Sixty-four (4.6%) of 1388 children with severe malaria had bacteremia; nontyphoidal Salmonellae (NTS) accounted for 58% of all bacteremias. The prevalence of any bacteremia and of NTS bacteremia was highest in children with severe malarial anemia (11.7% and 7.6%), compared with the prevalence in children with cerebral malaria and severe anemia (4.7% and 3.8%) and in those with cerebral malaria alone (3.0% and 0.9%). HIV infection status was determined in 1119 patients. HIV prevalence was 16% (and was highest in those with severe malaria anemia, at 20.4%), but HIV infection was not significantly associated with bacteremia. Neither bacteremia nor HIV infection was associated with death.


Antibiotics are not routinely indicated for children with severe malaria in this region, in which HIV is endemic. However, antibiotic therapy should be used to treat NTS infection if bacteremia is suspected in children with severe malarial anemia.