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Is Malaria Infection Associated with Increased Risk of Heart Failure?

The study also revealed as many as 69 cases of heart failure, which was very high as compared to the general population, and 68 cases of cardiovascular death, which was considered within normal range.

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Updated:September 3, 2019, 3:42 PM IST
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Is Malaria Infection Associated with Increased Risk of Heart Failure?
Representative image. (Image: Reuters)
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As the number of malaria cases has gone on a rise with a number of health complications, the researchers are trying to find out different factors that increase the risk of the mosquito-borne disease. In its recent press release, the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) has done a study on malaria infection to prove that malaria is linked with a 30% raised risk of heart failure. The study was presented at the ESC Congress 2019 together with the World Congress of Cardiology, scheduled on September 2, 2019.

Dr Philip Brainin, a postdoctoral research fellow at Herlev-Gentofte University Hospital at Denmark and the first author of the study, said at the conference, “We have seen an increase in the incidence of malaria cases and what is intriguing is we have seen the same increase in cardiovascular disease in the same regions. Even though we have taken preventive measures to decrease the malaria numbers it remains a major burden.”

According to last year’s statistics released by the World Health Organization (WHO), the mosquito-borne infection and a major monsoon disease, Malaria affects more than 219 million people worldwide each year.

To do the study, the researchers used registries in Denmark to identify patients with a history of malaria infection between January 1994 and January 2017. A total of 3,989 malaria cases were identified in the period, with 40% having plasmodium falciparum, a parasite transmitted through mosquito bites that is responsible for the majority of severe malaria cases in humans.

The study also revealed as many as 69 cases of heart failure, which was very high as compared to the general population, and 68 cases of cardiovascular death, which was considered within normal range.

“These patients had a 30% increased likelihood of developing heart failure over the follow-up time. Thirty percent is a high number, but you also have to understand that it is a relatively small study, which is a limitation. As of right now the results of this study are more hypothesis-generating for future studies,” explained Dr Brainin.

While more research will be needed in future to validate the findings, the recent studies have found that malaria could be a contributor to functional and structural changes in the myocardium, which is the muscle tissue of the heart.

“If malaria is potentially linked to cardiac disease it could represent a therapeutic target we could use to control and prevent cardiac disease in these regions,” commented Dr Brainin.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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