Malaria Consortium today announced a new research study to determine the burden of malaria and long-term complications following SARS-CoV-2 infection. This study follows previous ground-breaking Malaria Consortium research to determine the prevalence and magnitude of clinical overlap between SARS-CoV-2 and malaria, and potential consequences of co-infection and previous malaria exposure on clinical profiles and outcomes of COVID-19 patients.
The continuing spread of COVID-19 across the African continent remains a public health emergency, increasing pressure on already stretched healthcare infrastructure. In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria is a significant additional burden on health systems, accounting for over 90 percent of the 627,000 global malaria deaths in 2020 according to the World Health Organization’s latest World Malaria Report.
“The potential impact of previous COVID-19 infection on the risk of malaria among recovered patients is not known. A possible hypothesis is that previous infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus could potentially increase the risk of malaria infection either through persistent inflammatory processes post SARS-CoV-2 infection, through damage to specific tissues targeted by both pathogens, or through ecologic, epidemiologic, or even sociological factors that increase the probability of exposure to both pathogens. Any possible increase in risk of malaria following SARS-CoV-2 infection would be a major public health concern in sub-Saharan Africa especially when the previous gains in malaria burden reduction seen over the past decade have recently stalled,” said Dr Jane Achan, Senior Research Advisor at Malaria Consortium.
The research, a case-control study using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, will be conducted in states across Ethiopia and Uganda, both of which have experienced a significant burden of COVID-19 infections, ranking fourth and sixteenth respectively among the 57 African countries in number of COVID-19 cases reported.
In addition to comparing the prevalence of and risk factors for malaria infection among individuals with and without previous SARS-CoV-2 infection in Ethiopia and Uganda, the study will also seek to assess healthcare pathways for the management of fever and other long-term complications following SARS-CoV-2 infection and describe the association between previous malaria exposure and the development of long-COVID among individuals and between previous malaria exposure and risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
“This is important research given the significance of the dual burden of both malaria and COVID-19 in sub-Saharan Africa and the many unknowns that remain about interactions between the two. We’re excited to be taking a lead in this area and will be working closely with the two countries to support the development of integrated approaches to malaria prevention and strengthen health care pathways for the management of fever and other long-term complications following acute illness with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Dr Jane Achan.
Results from the study are expected to be published in late 2023.