The levels of antioxidant vitamins were estimated in Plasmodium falciparum malarial infected children aged 0 to 12 years. 113 children with P. falciparum infection were selected based on laboratory evidence and clinical symptoms. 87 apparently healthy children with no malarial parasitaemia were included as the control subjects. P. falciparum parasitaemia and serum levels of antioxidant vitamins (A, C and E) were determined using standard procedures. The results obtained showed that the mean malarial parasitaemia was 6203.01 ± 1216.79/µl and the mean serum antioxidant vitamin concentrations were 23.23±8.40 µl/dl for vitamin A, 0.49±0.18 mg/dL for vitamin C and 0.78±0.32mg/dL for vitamin E for the P. falciparum malarial infected children. The control children had higher concentrations of vitamins A (51.80±12.41 mg/dL, X2 = 60.713, P<0.05), C (1.01±0.16 mg/dl, X2 =0.031, P>0.05) and E (0.96±0.21 mg/dl, X2 =0.039,P>0.05). The degree of malarial parasitaemia and serum concentration of vitamin E were positively correlated (r=0.42) but vitamins A (r= -0.05) and C (-0.06) were negatively correlated. Children within 0-5 years of age had higher malarial parasitaemia (7379.82± 918.99/µl), and these children had lower concentrations of vitamins A (21.27±8.68 µg/dL) and C (0.45±0.19 mg/dL) when compared with children between 6 to 12 years (vitamin A= 25.19±8.12 µg/dl and vitamin C = 0.53±0.16 mg/dL). Results suggest that the degree of malarial parasitaemia in especially children between 0 to 5 years could compromise immunity (as judged by the correlation with and reduction in vitamin E). Malarial infection among children (0 to 12 years) decreased the serum antioxidant vitamin levels, and this could lower free radical defense and contribute to the morbidity and mortality of malaria among children in this region. Health care providers should recognize these effects in planning malarial treatment and control programmes. Changes in serum antioxidant levels during post-treatment period should be investigated and documented.
Key words: Plasmodium falciparum, malaria, antioxidant vitamins, Owerri, fever.
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