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We studied the aetiology of malnutrition in a cohort of 1511 children < 10 years old in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. Malnutrition was categorized using standard anthropometric criteria as: underweight [weight-for-age (WA) Z score < -2], wasting [weight-for-height (WH) Z < -2], or stunting [height-for-age (HA) Z < -2]. On multiple logistic regression analysis, the only factors significantly associated with wasting were age < 5 years [OR (95% CI) 1.8 (1.2-2.9), p = 0.01] and having suffered one or more episodes of clinical P. vivax malaria in the 6 months preceding nutritional assessment [OR 2.4 (1.3-4.4), p = 0.006]. The incidence of P. vivax infection was significantly higher during the 6 months preceding assessment in underweight vs. non-underweight children [incidence rate ratio (IRR) 2.6 (1.5-4.4), p < or = 0.0001). These groups had similar incidences of clinical P. falciparum infection during the same period [IRR 1.1 (0.57-2.1) p = 0.8] and of either species during the 6 months following assessment [IRR P. vivax 1.3 (0.9-2.0) p = 0.2; IRR P. falciparum 1.3 (0.9-1.9) p = 0.2]. In these children, P. vivax malaria was a major predictor of acute malnutrition; P. falciparum was not. Wasting neither predisposed to nor protected against malaria of either species. Although P. vivax malaria is generally regarded as benign, it may produce considerable global mortality through malnutrition.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





751 - 757


Age Factors, Child, Child Survival, Cohort Analysis, Demographic Factors, Developing Countries, Diseases, Length Of Life, Malaria, Malnutrition, Melanesia, Mortality, Nutrition Disorders, Oceania, Parasitic Diseases, Population, Population Characteristics, Population Dynamics, Research Methodology, Research Report, Survivorship, Vanuatu, Youth, Age Factors, Anthropometry, Body Weight, Child, Child, Preschool, Cohort Studies, Female, Humans, Infant, Logistic Models, Malaria, Falciparum, Malaria, Vivax, Male, Melanesia, Nutrition Disorders, Risk Factors