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Target older travellers for malaria, GPs told

GPs should target older people and those going on ‘winter sun’ holidays to Africa for pre-travel advice on malaria prophylaxis, a BMJ study reports.

The UK researchers conducted an observational study using the Malaria Reference Laboratory to analyse reported cases of malaria and the patient groups were more likely to die of the disease.

They found mortality rates increased with age, with those aged over 65 years old 10-times more likely to die from malaria than individuals aged 18-35.

Patients born outside of an African country with endemic malaria were four times more likely to die compared to those that were born in Africa and rates of fatality were also higher amongst those born outside an African country with endemic malaria that did not take any prophylaxis compared to those who did.

Study lead Dr Anna Checkley, lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘Our results suggest that certain groups may particularly benefit from interventions to reduce mortality from imported malaria, in particular pre-travel advice to stress the need for antimalaria measures and chemoprophylaxis, especially in older tourists.’

BMJ 2012, online 27 March