Malaria mortality

A new study published in The Lancet suggests that malaria kills almost twice as many people as the World Health Organisation estimates 1.

The researchers, led by Professor Christopher Murray at the University of Washington, assessed death statistics for 105 countries since 1980. Their method included examining registration statistics and verbal autopsy data, and correcting possible misclassifications of deaths from categories such as “fever” and attributing them to malaria.

They concluded there were 1.24 million deaths from malaria in 2010, nearly double the 655,000 given by the WHO. The authors found that were also far more adult deaths outside Africa, than were previously estimated.

In a study from rural Ethiopia, we found that malaria represents the leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 24 years old 2. Our study showed the leading perceived causes of death were malaria (0.85 per 1,000 person years), diarrhoea (0.5 per 1,000 PY) and tuberculosis (0.36 per 1,000 PY). Other causes accounted for 1.25 deaths per 1,000 PY and unknown causes for 0.39 deaths per 1,000 PY, as reported by family care givers.

I hope future malaria studies in Africa and Asia also try to estimate malaria deaths.

If these findings are accepted, there will be important consequences for global funding of initiatives to combat the parasite.


1.         Murray CJL, Rosenfeld LC, Lim SS, et al. Global malaria mortality between 1980 and 2010: a systematic analysis. The Lancet 2012;379:413-31.

2.         Molla M, Byass P, Berhane Y, Lindtjorn B. Mortality Decreases among Young Adults in Southern Central Ethiopia. Ethiopian Journal of Health Development 2008;22:218-25.

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