Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)


Background: Acute kidney injury (AKI) and blackwater fever (BWF) are related but distinct renal complications of acute febrile illness in East Africa. The pathogenesis and prognostic signifcance of BWF and AKI are not well understood.

Methods: A prospective observational cohort study was conducted to evaluate the association between BWF and AKI in children hospitalized with an acute febrile illness. Secondary objectives were to examine the association of AKI and BWF with (i) host response biomarkers and (ii) mortality. AKI was defned using the Kidney Disease: Improving Global Outcomes criteria and BWF was based on parental report of tea-colored urine. Host markers of immune and endothelial activation were quantifed on admission plasma samples. The relationships between BWF and AKI and clinical and biologic factors were evaluated using multivariable regression.

Results: We evaluated BWF and AKI in 999 children with acute febrile illness (mean age 1.7 years (standard deviation 1.06), 55.7% male). At enrollment, 8.2% of children had a history of BWF, 49.5% had AKI, and 11.1% had severe AKI. A history of BWF was independently associated with 2.18-fold increased odds of AKI (95% CI 1.15 to 4.16). When examining host response, severe AKI was associated with increased immune and endothelial activation (increased CHI3L1, sTNFR1, sTREM-1, IL-8, Angpt-2, sFlt-1) while BWF was predominantly associated with endothelial activation (increased Angpt-2 and sFlt-1, decreased Angpt-1). The presence of severe AKI, not BWF, was associated with increased risk of in-hospital death (RR, 2.17 95% CI 1.01 to 4.64) adjusting for age, sex, and disease severity.

Conclusions: BWF is associated with severe AKI in children hospitalized with a severe febrile illness. Increased awareness of AKI in the setting of BWF, and improved access to AKI diagnostics, is needed to reduce disease progression and in-hospital mortality in this high-risk group of children through early implementation of kidney-protective measures.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC medicine

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.