Imported malaria in the 1990s. A report of 59 cases from Houston, Tex.

T. A. Moore, J. F. Tomayko, A. M. Wierman, E. R. Rensimer, A. Clinton White

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OBJECTIVE: To determine the frequency, the clinical features, and the response to therapy of imported malaria that was diagnosed in the 1990s in a major North American city. METHOD: A retrospective case series from Houston, Tex, of 59 cases of imported malaria presenting between January 1990 and April 1993. RESULTS: Malaria was diagnosed in 59 patients, consisting of 12 cases among patients who had acquired the infection while they were living in endemic areas prior to immigration to the United States, 32 cases among US residents who were originally from endemic areas, and 15 cases among patients originally from North America or Europe. Only 12 patients had received malarial prophylaxis: eight with chloroquine, one with chloroquine and chloroguanide (proguanil), two with chloroquine and primaquine, and one with mefloquine taken intermittently. Eight presented with Plasmodium falciparum infection after receiving chloroquine, and one, after receiving chloroquine and chloroguanide. Two presented with malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax despite receiving chloroquine and primaquine as prophylaxis. In 25 cases, malaria was not considered as an initial diagnosis. Five patients presented with severe disease (three with severe hemolysis, two each with cerebral malaria and renal failure, and one with adult respiratory distress syndrome). Four of the five had initially received a misdiagnosis. Two patients died despite treatment with intravenous quinidine and exchange transfusions. Two patients with P vivax infection had multiple relapses despite courses of chloroquine and primaquine. Six patients were pregnant (including one with a fatal case), one congenital infection was identified. Six patients had not traveled outside of the United States in over 1 year. CONCLUSION: Imported malaria occurs frequently and usually results from the failure to use appropriate prophylaxis. Delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosis are common. Severe disease and fatal cases continue to be seen despite aggressive treatment. Drug resistance has continued to spread and now occurs with P vivax as well as P falciparum.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-136
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Family Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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