Malaria inflicts a huge health care burden in terms of mortality and morbidity worldwide. There has been evidence in the literature where many unexpected/unexplained deaths turned out to be related to malaria on autopsy. The aim of this study is to review autopsy diagnosed malaria related deaths in the literature with due stress to its biologic and forensic aspects. A meticulous literature search was performed for " sudden malaria death" , " malaria death postmortem diagnosis" and " unexplained death malaria" across PubMed, SCOPUS, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, Allied and Complementary Medicine, British Nursing Index, CINAHL, EMBASE, Ovid-MEDLINE and Google Scholar. All the literature was thoroughly reviewed and analyzed with reference to the type of study, location, travel history, age, gender, circumstance of death, method of diagnosis, species involved, chemoprophylaxis usage and take home message from the particular study. Plasmodium falciparum was responsible in most of the cases. The symptoms mimicked influenza in most of the case reports. Travel to endemic areas was common to most of the victims. The travelers were from all over the world including USA, France, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Asia (China and Japan). Vascular congestion with the presence of malarial pigment laden RBCs in capillaries of various organs was the major histopathology finding. Such lesions were found in the brains of all subjects (100%), liver of 78% of the cases, spleen in 67%, lungs in 56% and myocardium in 43% of the cases. Peripheral smear and rapid diagnostic test was of great aid to the autopsy in many cases. PCR was used for diagnosis as well as exclusion of possibility of co-infection with other species in case of Plasmodium knowlesi related death. The postmortem and histopathology findings in this case were similar to P. falciparum except for the fact that brain sections were negative for intracellular adhesion molecule-1. Chemoprophylaxis was not taken by the victims except for two in whom history of chloroquine based chemoprophylaxis was mentioned. Given the worldwide prevalence of the disease, increasing international travel and rapidly developing drug resistance, malaria will continue to be an important disease and should be considered in all cases of unexpected deaths particularly in malaria endemic regions or in presence of travel history to endemic regions.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pathology and Forensic Medicine
- Issues, ethics and legal aspects