Both Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum are prevalent in Pakistan, yet up-to-date data on the epidemiology of malaria in Pakistan are not available. This study was undertaken to determine the current prevalence and distribution of Plasmodium species across the country.
A malariometric population survey was conducted in 2011 using blood samples collected from 801 febrile patients of all ages in four provinces and the capital city of Islamabad. Microscopically confirmed Plasmodium-positive blood samples were reconfirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Confirmed parasite-positive samples were subjected to species-specific PCR capable of detecting four species of human malaria.
Of the 707 PCR-positive samples, 128 (18%) were P. falciparum, 536 (76%) were P. vivax, and 43 (6%) were mixed P. falciparum and P. vivax. Ninety-four microscopy-positive samples were PCR-negative, and Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium ovale were not detected. Prevalence of P. vivax ranged from 2.4% in Punjab Province to 10.8% in Sindh Province and prevalence of P. falciparum ranged from 0.1% in Islamabad to 3.8% in Balochistan.
Plasmodium infections in Pakistan are largely attributed to P. vivax but P. falciparum and mixed species infections are also prevalent. In addition, regional variation in the prevalence and species composition of malaria is high.