Research Article

Inoculum size, incubation period and severity of malaria. Analysis of data from malaria therapy records

J. R. Glynna1 and D. J. Bradleya1*

a1 Department of Epidemiology and Population Sciences, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT

The size of the infecting inoculum may influence the severity of malaria, but evidence is scarce. Malaria therapy records provide a unique source of information on induced malaria in people. The therapy was given to large numbers of neurosyphilis patients and the malaria was left untreated as long as possible. Data from patients treated at the Horton Hospital, Epsom 1923–60 with a single strain of vivax malaria were analysed to assess the influence of inoculum size on severity of disease. Malaria was induced by mosquito bite, blood inoculation or direct sporozoite inoculation. The different measures of inoculum size were inversely correlated with pre-patent period, as expected. Overall, information was available on a total of 563 non-immune patients who were not treated during the first 5 days of patent parasitaemia. No strong or consistent relationships were found between measures of inoculum size and any of the measures of severity used: neither parasitaemia levels, nor peak fevers, nor number of paroxysms of fever. In the largest data set, longer pre-patent periods were associated with tertian fever, spontaneous recovery and less use of modifying treatment. Difficulties in interpreting the results are discussed, particularly with respect to misclassification of both exposure and outcome variables. While an inoculum size-severity relationship cannot be ruled out, a strong relationship is very unlikely.

(Received March 17 1994)

(Revised June 27 1994)

(Accepted June 30 1994)


* Reprint requests to Professor D. J. Bradley.