The number of malaria deaths worldwide in 2010 was 1.24 million, nearly double the number previously estimated by the 2011 World Malaria Report (WMR). This is despite a 31-per-cent reduction in such deaths globally in the last five years.

This was stated in a study published on February 3 in The Lancet.

More deaths have been reported across all age groups and regions than the WMR.

For instance, the study reports 1.3 times higher mortality for children younger than five years in Africa; 8.1 times higher for those aged 5 or older in Africa; and 1.8 times higher for individuals of all ages outside of Africa.

Deaths across age-groups

The mortality data for this study was collected from all available sources from 1980 to 2010. Contrary to the general assumption that most deaths occurred in children aged less than five years, the study found that older children and adults accounted for 42 per cent of the deaths.

For instance, deaths in 2010 of people aged 15 to 49, 50 to 69 years, and 70 years or older accounted for 20 per cent, 9 per cent, and 6 per cent respectively. Surprisingly, with the exception of sub-Saharan countries, the percentage of deaths in adults in every country studied was more than 40 per cent.

The bright side

Outside Africa, the number of deaths in children younger than five years had steadily decreased from 1980 to 2010. “But there are more malaria deaths in those aged five and older than there are in [younger] children,” the authors of the study noted. The brighter side is that the numbers in this group have also decreased in the same period.

In the case of south and southeast Asia, mortality in individuals aged five or older “account for a large proportion of global malaria deaths in this age group in 2010,” the report states.

In the case of India, the largest contributor to deaths outside of Africa, the “estimates are much higher than WHO's.”

What comes out from the study is that apart from the disease causing more deaths in children, it is becoming a “greater long-term threat to adult health than previously imagined,” an editorial in the same issue of The Lancet warns.

Keywords: Malaria deathsMalariaWMR