A new study reveals global death rates from malaria may be almost twice the number previously estimated, with 1.24 million people dying from the disease in 2010, far exceeding the World Health Organization’s estimate of 655,000.
New research published in the British medical journal Lancet used new data combined with new computer modeling to create a malaria database between 1980 and 2010.
Researchers concluded malaria deaths rose from 995,000 in 1980 to 1.82 million in 2004 and then fell to the 2010 level of 1.24 million. Malaria is a parasitic and infectious disease carried by mosquitoes.
The increase between 1980 and 2004 was connected to a rising population in malaria-risk areas of the globe. The decline since 2004 is due to a rapid increase in control of malaria, particularly in Africa.
“You learn in medical school that people exposed to malaria as children develop immunity and rarely die from malaria as adults,” said Dr. Christopher Murray of the University of Washington in Seattle and lead researcher of the study, the BBC reports.
Among measures used in obtaining the new data were transmission rates, drug resistance, healthcare access and bednet coverage. Also considered was the misclassification of deaths in malaria-infected regions. Readjusting this figure alone resulted in a 21 percent increase in the number of malaria deaths.
Most deaths occur among young children and in Africa, the study found. Deaths from malaria in individuals five years of age or older was estimated to be higher than the WHO 2010 estimate by 435,000.
Outside Africa, malaria-related deaths have seen a steady decrease, from 502,000 in 1980 to 104,000 in 2010.