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Plasmodium vivax malaria in the UK

BMJ 2015; 350 doi: (Published 16 April 2015) Cite this as: BMJ 2015;350:h1840
  1. Christopher J Gill, associate professor
  1. 1Department of Global Health, Center for Global Health and Development, Boston University School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA
  1. cgill{at}

New insights into an old enemy

Plasmodium falciparum malaria is so lethal and ubiquitous that one could easily forget that other species of malaria are globally important too. In particular, Plasmodium vivax, the main cause of relapsing malaria, affects up to 300 million people annually, and occurs in far wider and ecologically diverse settings than P falciparum.

Yet P vivax remains seriously understudied. Today, querying “Plasmodium falciparum” on PubMed generated 31 493 citations compared with only 6520 for “Plasmodium vivax.” Recent data suggest that the epidemiology of P vivax may be shifting1 2 and that the parasite could be growing more virulent.3 4 But the evidence supporting these rests largely on small, cross sectional studies with limited geographical scope. Without large, systematically collected, geographically diverse, longitudinal datasets, we cannot be certain that these trends are for real, let alone try to explain them based on external forces, such as global warming or urbanisation.

In this context, the linked paper by Broderick and colleagues (doi:10.1136/bmj.h1703) is well timed.5 These authors analysed 27 years of data and over 50 000 clinical samples collected by the Public Health England Malaria Reference Laboratory. To enter the …

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