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Over 125M Pregnant Women Worldwide Exposed To Malaria Annually, Study Finds

More than 125 million pregnant women worldwide are exposed to malaria each year, according to a study published Tuesday in PLoS Medicine, ANI/oneindia reports. Previously, such estimates were limited to malaria risk in Africa. “Most malarial deaths are among young children in sub-Saharan Africa but pregnant women and their unborn babies are at high risk,” the news service writes, adding that “[n]early 10,000 women and 200,000 babies die every year because of malaria in pregnancy, which often leads to miscarriages, pre-term births, and low-birth-weight births” (1/26).

To calculate the pregnancies at risk of malaria in each country, “[t]he researchers estimated the sizes of populations at risk of malaria in 2007 by combining maps of the global limits of P. vivax and P. falciparum transmission with data on population densities” and determined the annual number of pregnancies in each country, Indo-Asian News Service/Times of India writes. The researchers then multiplied the “number of pregnancies in the entire country by the fraction of the population living within the spatial limits of malaria transmission in that country” (1/26).

“The new study is the first to put a solid number on this high-risk population, says coauthor Feiko ter Kuile, a physician and medical epidemiologist at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in England,” ScienceNews writes. “The 125 million pregnancies … constituted roughly 60 percent of all pregnancies worldwide that year,” according to the article, which includes details on how the malaria parasite evades detection during pregnancy and increases the vulnerability of fetuses and newborns (Seppa, 1/25).

“We now have a reliable estimate of the numbers at risk globally from malaria in pregnancy, which on its own is an important spur to further investment to tackle this problem,” ter Kuile said in a press release issued by Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine. “More significantly, the study is an important first step towards a spatial map of the burden of malaria in pregnancy and should help policy makers allocate resources for research and control of this important public health problem” (1/25).

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