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Variation of haematological indices in various types of malaria.

INTRODUCTION: Malaria is a major cause of morbidity worldwide, with an estimated 250 million cases a year and between 1 and 2 million deaths. (1) There is an intimate relationship between the Malaria parasites and the blood.

Gold standard of Malaria diagnosis is demonstration of parasite in the peripheral blood smear. However there seems to be a co-relation between platelet count, the WBC counts, Hb and morphology of RBC in Malaria. Prediction of the hematological changes enables the clinician to establish an effective and early therapeutic intervention in order to prevent the occurrence of major complications.


The present study is done with following aims and objectives:

1. To record the Hb, PCV and morphology of RBCs in smears detected positive with Malaria.

2. To make a Total count and Differential count of WBCs in the peripheral smears of Malaria patients.

3. To establish a relationship of thrombocytopenia with Malaria.


Source of Data: Cases subjected for Malarial parasite detection tested positive in Central Diagnostic Lab (CDL). 200 cases will be included in this study.

Method of Collection of Data: This is a Prospective study done from September 2011 to August 2012.4 ml of blood is collected from the patient using sterile aseptic methods in an EDTA vacutainer. The blood drawn is fed into the automated cell counter where the Hb, PCV and Total counts of the WBCs were collected; with the remaining blood peripheral smears are made which are subjected to leishman's staining. The smears are evaluated and the RBC morphology, differential count of WBCs and platelet counts are done. A proforma containing the details of the patient and informed consent of the patient for the present study is maintained.

Inclusion Criteria: All slides of Malarial parasites tested positive after peripheral smear examination.

Exclusion Criteria: Slides not having Malarial parasites.

Statistical Analysis: A qualitative analysis of the data was done to find association between 2 factors. Chi square tests, student unpaired t test and Mannwhaithey U test methodology has been employed for statistical analysis.

Rare Findings in our Study: One of the rare findings in our study was phagocytosis of Malarial pigment by a monocyte, only 1 case (0.5%) was reported.

2 cases of Malarial infestations had an Hb level beyond 18 g/dl accounting for 1% of the cases. A PCV of 73.2% was seen in a 49 year old male.

None of the patients had severe sequelae of Malaria like CM, renal failure etc.

The mortality rate in our study was nil


Blood smear of a Malaria positive patient, RBCs show P. vivax trophozoites. Also phagocytosis of Malaria pigment in acute Malaria by monocytes is seen.

DISCUSSION: Malaria represents a huge burden for primary health care services accounting for around 30% of total outpatients and inpatients visiting the hospital. Hence this significant expenditure needs to be taken seriously and all aspects of Malaria need to be documented. (2) Over the years numerous Malaria eradication programmes have been changed to Malaria control programmes underlying the healthcare problems of this parasitic disease.

P. vivax was the dominant species encountered in our study amounting to 87.5%. This is in contrast to other studies done globally where P. falciparum was the dominant species diagnosed.

Whereas Shetty et al (5) (Mangalore) who did a study in 2011 showed a predominance of P. vivax Malaria which can be compared to our study as it was done in the same region.

In our study the Hemoglobin varied from as low as 6.9g/dl to as high as 19.3g/dl. The mean Hb being 12.81g/dl for P. vivax and 12.39g/dl for P. falciparum, owing to the awareness among patients who had fever with chills, they came to the laboratory for diagnosis of Malaria, therefore being detected at early stages and reducing the complications arising due to Malaria. Thus the findings were not significant. A comparison to previous studies done globally and is tabulated below.
Comparison of mean Hb of affected cases
Study          Rasheed et   Jhadav et   Erhart et   Current
                al. (3)      al. (7)     al. (8)    study.
                 (2007)      (2004)      (2004)     (2012)

P.vivax           13.7        12.5        12.9       12.81
P.falciparum     12.43        11.6        12.62      12.39

The PCV was calculated and our mean PCV was 36.58% which was comparable to other previous studies though it was not a significant finding. The comparison is shown in the next table.
Table 27: Comparison of mean PCV in Malarial positive patients

Study         Okocha et         Taha et        Current study.
            al. (9) (2005)   al. (10) (2007)       (2012)

Mean PCV       39.54 %            36 %            36.58 %

Anemia has frequently been associated with Malaria. The two common causes of anemia are increased hemolysis and decreased rate of erythrocyte production from bone marrow.11, 12 13.5% (27) of our cases had anemia and when compared to various studies done previously we found a variable data. Kassa et al (13) in 2005 showed only 14.7% anemic cases, whereas Aktar et al (4) in 2011 showed 86.5% anemic cases. We concluded that any morphological type of anemia is not a particular characteristic feature of Malaria and hence not a significant finding.
Study    Aktar et   Rasheed et    Kassa et   Current study.
         al. (4)      al. (3)     al. (13)       (2012)
          (2011)      (2007)       (2005)

Anemic    86.5%        39.6%       14.7%         13.5%

Comparison of anemic cases in Malarial patients

Though the findings for Mean WBC counts were not significant they were however comparable to other studies done globally as shown in the table.
Study           Kassa et   Erhart et   Taha et    Rasheed et   Current
                al. (13)   al. (8)     al. (10)    al. (3)     study.
                 (2005)     (2004)      (2007)      (2007)     (2012)

P. vivax          5500       6618        6080        5800       5075
P. falciparum     4800       6232        6510        5900       4900

Comparison of patients having Malaria showing leucopenia

Leucopenia is a finding we have got in our study amounting to 29% of the total studied cases and this reflects the state of hypersplenism. These findings are comparable to previous studies done abroad as shown in the next table.
Study        Erhart et    Kassa et    Rasheed et    Current
              al. (8)     al. (13)      al. (3)      study.
               (2004)      (2005)       (2007)       (2012)

Below 4000     23.3%         23%          20%         29%

Comparison of patients having Malaria showing leucopenia

Our study revealed Monocytosis in 23% cases when compared to Aktar et al (4) who revealed 18.9% cases, suggesting that monocytosis develops in more severe cases in the period of convalescences, which reflects the elevated activity of reticulo-endothelial system.

Thrombocytopenia is a classical feature of Malaria. Our study had a majority (94%) cases having this feature, the mechanism of thrombocytopenia being due to enhanced splenic uptake, DIC and immune mediated causes. This is a significant finding and it was also comparable to other studies done previously.

REVIEW OF LITERATURE: Hematologic abnormalities are common: Thrombocytopenia (platelet count < 150 x 109/L) occurs in up to 70% of patients and anemia in 25%. The leukocyte count is normal or low; leukocytosis is seen in less than 5% of cases and is a poor prognostic factor. (14)

Microscopy by Peripheral Smear is widely used for detection, identification and quantification of Malaria parasites, 15 and remains the gold standard. Blood should, if possible, be taken during or after pyrexia, and before the administration of anti-Malarial drugs.

Severe anemia is most commonly seen after P. falciparum infections, followed by that due to P. vivax. The nonparasitized red cells are usually normocytic and normochromic in patients with P. falciparum Malaria. Spherocytes and red cell fragmentation were not found on blood film. The anemia of Malaria can certainly not be explained by the hemolysis of parasitized red cells alone; it is frequently disproportional to the degree of parasitemia.

Most parasitized red cells are then destroyed, either by rupture at schizogony or by premature phagocytosis by monocytes and macrophages. The falling hemoglobin in these patients coincided with rising parasitemia and improvement after reduction of parasitemia. In pregnancy P. vivax was shown to be associated with anemia (hematocrit <30% at any stage) but not as severe as that of P. falciparum. (16)

Leukocytes play a vital role in defense against Malaria. Initial nonspecific responses include phagocytosis, cytotoxicity and cytokine production. With repeated infections, there ensues specific immunity which has a predominant antibody-dependent component. The total white cell count is usually within the normal range, or there may be a slight leucopenia in adults with acute P. falciparum Malaria. In a small proportion of children and adults with severe and complicated Malaria, leukocytosis may also occur. (17)

The leukocyte count returned to normal within three days after anti-Malarial therapy. (18) Phagocytosis by neutrophils, monocytes and tissue macrophages as a major mechanism in the host defense against Malaria has been noted from the earliest of studies. (19) The particles that are ingested include merozoites, Malaria pigment (hemozoin), parasitized red cells, nonparasitized red cells, platelets, and occasionally other nucleated cells.

At the turn of the 19th century Malaria was thought to be associated with high platelet counts. (20) However, in (1924) reduction in peripheral blood platelet concentration was described in man (21) and has since been observed consistently during infection with all human Malaria parasites species. (22,23,24)

Thrombocytopenia is a frequent finding in acute P. falciparum Malaria infection. It results from a combination of platelet activation, splenic pooling and reduced life-span due to antibody and cellular immune responses. Vivax' associated thrombocytopenia is common (25) with multiple mechanisms resulting in peripheral destruction and splenic sequestration. (8)

RESULTS: This prospective study was conducted from September 2011 to August 2012. The age group of patients included in this study ranged from an infant aged 1 year to a 69 year old man.

1. Male predominance was noted being 82%.

2. Mean age of presentation was 32.6 years for P. vivax and 33.2 years for P. falciparum Malaria

3. Most common clinical features were fever with chills and rigor.

4. P. vivax was the dominant species of Malarial cases (87.5%) reported.

5. Mean Hb was 12.81g/dl for P. vivax and 12.39g/dl for P. falciparum cases. This was an insignificant finding in our study.

6. Mean PCV was 36.58%. Cases P. vivax reported 36.84% and P. falciparum reported 34.8%.

7. Anemia amounted to 13.5% (27) of cases. The incidence being 12.6% of the cases in P. vivax and 20% in P. falciparum Malaria.

8. Mean RBC indices of P. vivax cases were MCV-85fl, MCH-28.4pg/cell, MCHC-33.4g/dl and RDW14.8%. Mean RBC indices of P. falciparum cases were MCV-77fl, MCH-25.1pg/cell, MCHC29.2g/dl and RDW-12.7%.

9. Mean WBC counts was 5075 cells/cumm for P. vivax and 4900 cells/cumm for P. falciparum.

10. Leucopenia was observed in 29% (58) cases. In P. vivax it was 28.6% and in P. falciparum it was 32%.

11. Monocytosis was seen in 23% (46) cases and the incidence in P. vivax and P. falciparum cases was 23.4% and 20% respectively.

12. Thrombocytopenia was a significant finding amounting to 94% (188) cases with all (100%) P. falciparum cases and 93% of P. vivax cases showing thrombocytopenia.

To conclude our study, Malaria affects almost all blood components and is a true hematological infectious disease. The hematological parameters are more affected in P. falciparum Malaria when compared to P. vivax Malaria; thereby concluding that P. falciparum has more morbidity than P. vivax and if left untreated will lead to severe complications.

DOI: 10.14260/Jemds/2014/2683


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Samith Ahmed [1], Farhana Zakaria [2], Aravind P [3]


[1.] Samith Ahmed

[2.] Farhana Zakaria

[3.] Aravind P.


[1.] Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, Azeezia Medical College, Kollam,

[2.] Assistant Professor, Department of Pathology, Yenepoya Medical College, Mangalore.

[3.] Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, AJIMS, Mangalore.


Dr. Samith Ahmed, Gulistan, K. E. Compound, Mulihitlu Road, Bolar, Mangalore-575001. Email:

Date of Submission: 20/03/2014.

Date of Peer Review: 21/03/2014.

Date of Acceptance: 03/05/2014.

Date of Publishing: 26/05/2014.
Doughnut chart showing species distribution


P.vivax           175

P. falciparum      25

Bar graph showing sex wise distribution of anemic cases

                   Males     Females

Below 10 g/dl       16         11

Above 10 g/dl       148        25

Note: Table made from bar graph.

                   %tage of Thrombocytopenia

Current study                  94
Alecrim                        91.8
Taylor et al                   78.8
Aktar et al                    71.6
Robinson et al                 71
Rasheed et al                  79.5
Ansari et al                   69.2

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Mean Hb value

Species               Numbers              Mean

P. vivax                175               12.81
P. falciparum            25               12.39

Cases having Leukopenia

                       Number           Percentage

P. vivax                 50               28.57
P. falciparum            8                  32

Mean T otal Count of WBCs

                      Numbers        Mean (WBCs/cumm)

P. vivax                175                5075
P. falciparum            25                4900

Cases having monocytosis

                   Within normal       Above normal      Total

P. vivax                134                 41            175
P. falciparum            20                 5             25
Total                   154                 46            200

Cases having thrombocytopenia

                  Thrombocytopenia        Normal        Percent

P. vivax                163                 12           93.14
P. falciparum            25                 0             100

Mean value of platelets

Species               Numbers        Mean(plts/cu mm)

P. vivax                175               77233
P. falciparum            25               70828

Comparison of Malarial species affecting the patients
Study           Rasheed et   Aktar et  Shetty et  Hassan et   Current
                 al. (3)     al. (4)   al. (5)     al. (6)    study.
                  (2007)     (2011)     (2011)     (2007)     (2012)

P. vivax          19.2%       36.5%      66%        47.3%      87.5%
P. falciparum     61.9%       52.7%      16%        50.9%      12.5%
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Author:Ahmed, Samith; Zakaria, Farhana; P., Aravind
Publication:Journal of Evolution of Medical and Dental Sciences
Article Type:Clinical report
Date:May 26, 2014
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