A new study published in the Lancet claims that malaria caused over 1.24 million deaths worldwide in 2010.
The findings stated that malaria was the underlying cause of death for around 714,000 children less than 5 years of age and that 524,000 individuals aged 5 years or above succumbed to malaria in 2010.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) in Seattle and the University of Queensland, the findings were based on a systematic analysis of global malaria mortality between 1980 and 2010.
Researchers at IHME noted that the estimated malarial deaths in this study are far more than the number found in the most recent comprehensive study of the disease and higher than that actually thought of.
In comparison to the WHO estimates of 655,000 global deaths as an underlying cause of malaria, the new analysis concluded that global deaths had risen from 995,000 in 1980 and fell to 1.24 million in 2010. The analysis said that death rates were highest at 1.82 million in 2004.
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The study findings noted that in the last five years, although the fight against malaria led to a 31 percent reduction in global malaria deaths, new findings show substantially more deaths across all ages and regions than the World Malaria Report 2011.
The new death assessment due to malaria in the new 2010 analysis states death rates at 1.3 times higher for children younger than 5 years in Africa, 8.11 times higher for those aged 5 years or older in Africa, and 1.8 times higher for individuals of all ages outside of Africa.
An important revelation was that although most malaria deaths are rampant in children, adult death rates due to malaria were equally high.
The study stated that the reason for the rapid decrease in malaria mortality in Africa was primarily because of the scaling up of control activities supported by international donors and that more donor support was inevitable to further eliminate or eradicate malaria as part of the international development goals.
Data notes that 20 percent of malaria deaths occurred in people aged 15 to 49 years, 9 percent in people aged 50 to 69 years, and 6 percent in those over 70 years of age. Compared to other assessments, this study estimates more deaths in individuals aged 5 years or older in 2010; 435,000 in Africa and 89,000 outside of Africa, the study stated.
In the past, efforts have been made to assess the burden of malaria and chart out progress in fighting the disease but different approaches have lead to highly variable results.
In the most comprehensive data yet, global malaria death has been estimated in the range of 800,000 to more than a million since 2000. The new data has now added a new stake by saying it is much larger than the previous estimates.
The new study is particularly concerned on the adult mortality factor as a result of malaria saying that there is a need to control strategies and should shift to pay more attention to adults and underscores the dangers posed by the global economic crisis.
The study notes that while considerable improvement has been made in fighting malaria over the past five years, the new findings predict more deaths across all ages and regions when compared to past assessments, especially those linked to adults' malarial death outcomes.
The study authors explained that the differences between the results of the new analysis and those of other assessments, including the World Malaria Report 2011, could be attributed to the larger number of malaria deaths found in the new analysis, as well as child mortality estimates that were developed with the current analysis.
Overall, the new analysis using models with rigorous out-of-sample predictive validity suggested fewer deaths from all causes than those used in the World Malaria Report. The new study also estimated the rate of Plasmodium falciparum parasite from the Malaria Atlas Project and included the effect of interventions other than vector control.
Despite difficulties in estimating the actual global death rates caused by malaria, especially in countries with poor reliable health statistics, the new analysis has tried to overcome this problem through innovative techniques.
In developing study models, the study authors restricted their analysis to 105 countries with local malaria transmission during the period from January 1980 to December 2010. For countries that had eliminated malaria during this period, the study identified the year of elimination and estimated malaria deaths for the period in which malaria transmission occurred.
In view of the differential patterns of malaria mortality, the world was divided into three groups: countries with only Plasmodium vivax malaria (15 countries), countries from sub-Saharan Africa and Yemen (45 countries) and countries outside of sub-Saharan Africa (45 countries).
The study authors wrote, Because the recorded malaria death rate in countries with only P vivax is low-there are 2242 malaria deaths in the database for the 15 countries between 1980 and 2010-we used the median recorded death rate by age as a simple predictor of malaria mortality.
For the other two categories of countries, we developed and tested a diverse set of models-including different combinations of covariates and both mixed-effect and spatio-temporal forms- for the log of the death rate and for the logit of the cause fraction. We developed models separately for each sex and broad age group (<5 years and 5 years and older)-i.e., a total of eight models, wrote the authors.