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We studied the aetiology of malnutrition in a cohort of 1511 children < 10 years old in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. Malnutrition was categorized using standard anthropometric criteria as: underweight [weight-for-age (WA) Z score < -2], wasting [weight-for-height (WH) Z < -2], or stunting [height-for-age (HA) Z < -2]. On multiple logistic regression analysis, the only factors significantly associated with wasting were age < 5 years [OR (95% CI) 1.8 (1.2-2.9), p = 0.01] and having suffered one or more episodes of clinical P. vivax malaria in the 6 months preceding nutritional assessment [OR 2.4 (1.3-4.4), p = 0.006]. The incidence of P. vivax infection was significantly higher during the 6 months preceding assessment in underweight vs. non-underweight children [incidence rate ratio (IRR) 2.6 (1.5-4.4), p < or = 0.0001). These groups had similar incidences of clinical P. falciparum infection during the same period [IRR 1.1 (0.57-2.1) p = 0.8] and of either species during the 6 months following assessment [IRR P. vivax 1.3 (0.9-2.0) p = 0.2; IRR P. falciparum 1.3 (0.9-1.9) p = 0.2]. In these children, P. vivax malaria was a major predictor of acute malnutrition; P. falciparum was not. Wasting neither predisposed to nor protected against malaria of either species. Although P. vivax malaria is generally regarded as benign, it may produce considerable global mortality through malnutrition.

Original publication




Journal article


QJM : monthly journal of the Association of Physicians

Publication Date





751 - 757


Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.


Humans, Malaria, Falciparum, Malaria, Vivax, Nutrition Disorders, Body Weight, Anthropometry, Logistic Models, Risk Factors, Cohort Studies, Age Factors, Child, Child, Preschool, Infant, Melanesia, Female, Male