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The quantity of malaria pigment liberated into the circulation at schizogony reflects the pathogenic sequestered parasite burden in Plasmodium falciparum malaria, and may therefore be a measure of disease severity. Among 300 consecutive adult patients with severe falciparum malaria, the 40 who died had significantly higher proportions of malaria pigment-containing neutrophils on admission (mean = 7.7%, standard deviation (SD) = 5.9%) and pigment-containing monocytes (mean = 8.6%, SD = 5.9%) than did survivors (mean 3.2%, SD = 4.1% and mean 4.8%, SD = 4.6%, respectively) (P < 0.0001). This proved a better indicator of prognosis than the peripheral parasite count. A count of peripheral neutrophils containing visible pigment > or = 5% predicted a fatal outcome with 73% sensitivity and 77% specificity (relative risk 6.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 3.2-11.8) compared to 60% sensitivity and 57% specificity for parasitaemia > 100,000/microL (relative risk 1.8, 95% CI 1.0-3.3). The peripheral blood count of pigment-containing neutrophils in severe malaria is a rapid, simple, and practical prognostic test.

Original publication




Journal article


Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg

Publication Date





200 - 204


Adipose Tissue, Hemeproteins, Humans, Leukocyte Count, Malaria, Falciparum, Microscopy, Electron, Monocytes, Neutrophils, Observer Variation, Pigments, Biological, Prognosis, Sensitivity and Specificity