In Africa, Plasmodium falciparum accounts for majority of malaria morbidity and mortality in children under five years. At this age, they also become co-infected with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). There is scanty of information whether this co-infection is the reason why malaria in children tends to be severe. The aim was to study the association between co-infection of EBV with P. falciparum infection and malaria severity in children under five. A cross sectional study was conducted among eighty children below five years who had been confirmed to have malaria. These children were grouped into those who had severe malaria and those who did not have severe malaria. EBV antibodies (EBNA-1 IgG) and malaria parasitaemia were measured from the blood samples of the children using ELISA and microscopy, respectively. EBV seroprevalence was higher in the severe malaria group, 16 (32.78%) compared to non-severe malaria group, 5 (16.1%); although it did not show any significant difference (Risk ratio: 2.024, 95% CI: 0.8249 to 4.9686, p = 0.1236). Despite the higher seroprevalence of EBV in the severe malaria group, this was not responsible for malaria severity. Children with EBV were however more likely to progress to severe malaria.
Key words: Epstein-Barr virus, Plasmodium falciparum, severe malaria, endemicity.
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