Research Article

Plasmodial pigmentation of placenta and outcome of pregnancy in West African mothers.

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983; 287 doi: (Published 23 July 1983) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1983;287:251
  1. M Watkinson,
  2. D I Rushton


    In a region where falciparum malaria is endemic and where pregnant women traditionally receive only curative treatment for parasitaemias and no chemoprophylaxis 65 placental biopsy specimens were examined histologically for malaria pigment. Twenty seven placentas had pigment, but parasitaemias had been diagnosed antenatally in only 12 of these women despite their frequent attendance at antenatal and other clinics. The incidence of parasitaemia in pregnant primigravidas was 17.7%, seven times greater than that in lactating primiparous mothers; pregnant primigravidas also had the highest incidence (67%) of pigmented placentas. First born babies with pigmented placentas had a mean (SD) birth weight of 2580 (260) g, significantly less than the 3150 (400) g of unaffected first babies. All babies weighing less than 2500 g at birth had pigmented placentas. Pigmentation was associated with parasitaemias in the second half of pregnancy, and, although some recovery from early parasitaemias may occur, the fetoplacental unit is inadequately protected by curative treatment alone. Chemoprophylaxis currently remains the procedure of choice.