Malaria deaths nearly twice as many than previously thought

06 February, 2012

A new international study involving researchers from The University of Queensland (UQ) has found more than 1.2 million people died from malaria worldwide in 2010 – twice the number found in the most recent comprehensive study of the disease.

Head of UQ's School of Population Health and one of the study's co-authors, Dr Alan Lopez, said malaria is killing more people worldwide than previously thought, but the number of deaths has fallen rapidly as efforts to combat the disease have ramped up.

The researchers, from UQ and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, say that deaths from malaria have been missed by previous studies because of the assumption that the disease mainly kills children under 5.

"Despite assumptions that mainly young children die from malaria, our study identified that 42 per cent of malaria deaths occur in older children and adults," Dr Lopez said.

The study found that more than 78,000 children aged 5 to 14, and more than 445,000 people ages 15 and older died from malaria in 2010, meaning that 42 per cent of all malaria deaths were in people aged 5 and older.

While the overall number of malaria deaths is higher than earlier reports, the trend in malaria deaths has followed a similar downward pattern, due to anti-malaria drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets driving mortality down.

"We have seen a huge increase in both funding and in policy attention given to malaria over the past decade, and it's having a real impact," Dr Lopez said.

Source: The University of Queensland (UQ)