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Link Seen Between HIV and Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa

Mathematical model shows that co-infection magnifies the spread of both diseases

THURSDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In sub-Saharan Africa, co-infection with HIV and malaria may be an important factor in the spread of both diseases, according to a report published in the Dec. 8 issue of Science.

Building on previous research showing that HIV patients' viral load increases during a bout with malaria and that HIV infection increases susceptibility to malaria, Laith Abu-Raddad, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues used a mathematical model to explore how the two diseases interact. They tested the model using data gathered from the high-risk region of Kisumu, Kenya.

The researchers estimate that the disease interaction may have been responsible for 8,500 excess HIV infections and 980,000 excess malaria episodes since 1980. They also suggest that co-infection may have resulted in malarial expansion in regions with a high prevalence of HIV.

"Our work highlights the need for field studies that better characterize the parameters of the interaction and explore the impact of intervention measures," the authors conclude. "However, such studies must account for the ethical considerations posed by the recent findings of Mermin et al. that there are effective interventions to reduce the incidence of malaria in HIV-infected persons. Finally, we emphasize the need for more-concerted health services for early and effective treatment and prevention of malaria in HIV-infected persons."

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