Differing Causes of Lactic Acidosis and Deep Breathing in Cerebral Malaria and Severe Malarial Anemia May Explain Differences in Acidosis-Related Mortality

Document Type



Paediatrics and Child Health (East Africa)


Lactic acidosis (LA) is a marker for mortality in severe malaria, but the mechanisms that lead to LA in the different types of severe malaria and the extent to which LA-associated mortality differs by type of severe malaria are not well described. We assessed the fre- quency of LA in children admitted to Mulago Hospital, Kampala, Uganda with cerebral malaria (CM, n = 193) or severe malarial anemia (SMA, n = 216). LA was compared to mor- tality and measures of parasite biomass and sequestration (P. falciparum histidine-rich pro- tein-2 (PfHRP2) concentration, platelet count), and to a measure of systemic tissue oxygen delivery (hemoglobin level). LA was more frequent in children with SMA than CM (SMA, 47.7%, CM, 34.2%, P = 0.006), but mortality was higher in children with CM (13.0%) than SMA (0.5%, P<0.0001). In CM, LA was associated with increased PfHRP2 concentration and decreased platelet count but was not associated with hemoglobin level. In contrast, in SMA, LA was associated with a decreased hemoglobin level, but was not associated with PfHRP2 concentration or platelet count. LA was related to mortality only in CM. In multivari- able regression analysis of the effect PfHRP2 and hemoglobin levels on LA and DB, only PfHRP2 level increased risk of LA and DB in CM, while in SMA, elevated hemoglobin strongly decreased risk of LA and DB, and PfHRP2 level modestly increased risk of LA. The study findings suggest that LA in CM is due primarily to parasite sequestration, which currently has no effective adjunctive therapy, while LA in SMA is due primarily to anemia, which is rapidly corrected with blood transfusion. Differing etiologies of LA in CM and SMA may explain why LA is associated with mortality in CM but not SMA.


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

Publication (Name of Journal)

PLoS One.



Creative Commons License

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