C-reactive protein and haptoglobin in the evaluation of a community- based malaria control programme
McGuire W., D Alessandro U., Olaleye BO., Thomson MC., Langerock P., Greenwood BM., Kwiatkowski D.
When cross-sectional surveys are used to evaluate malaria intervention programmes in the community, the prevalence of morbidity is difficult to assess because of the fluctuating nature of malarial fever. We have therefore investigated the impact of bed net usage on 2 surrogate markers of malarial morbidity: (i) elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) (> 8 mg/L) plus detectable parasitaemia, as an indicator of malaria- induced acute-phase response; and (ii) reduced haptoglobin levels (< 180 mg/L), which in this population indicates malaria-induced intravascular haemolysis. Among 1505 Gambian children 1-5 years old, examined on a single occasion at the end of the malarial transmission season, 5% had parasitaemia plus fever, while 24% had parasitaemia plus elevated CRP, and 35% had low haptoglobin. The proportion of children who had parasitaemia plus elevated CRP was significantly lower among those who had slept under insecticide-treated bed nets than among those who did not use a bed net (16% vs. 34%, P < 0.003), and the proportion with low haptoglobin differed similarly (24% vs. 49%, P < 0.003). Use of an untreated bed net had a weaker effect on both indices (22% had parasitaemia plus elevated CRP, 34% had low haptoglobin). CRP and haptoglobin are simple and inexpensive to measure in large numbers of people, and these results suggest that they could be useful for the assessment of malaria intervention programmes.