Publications by authors named "Paul Pensulo"

8 Publications

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Prevalence and Clinical Management of Non-malarial Febrile Illnesses among Outpatients in the Era of Universal Malaria Testing in Malawi.

Am J Trop Med Hyg 2020 08 18;103(2):887-893. Epub 2020 Jun 18.

Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland.

Increasing access to rapid diagnostic tests for malaria (mRDTs) has raised awareness of the challenges healthcare workers face in managing non-malarial febrile illnesses (NMFIs). We examined NMFI prevalence, clinical diagnoses, and prescribing practices in outpatient clinics across different malaria transmission settings in Malawi. Standardized facility-based malaria surveillance was conducted at three facilities one of every 4 weeks over 2 years. Information on demographics, presenting symptoms, temperature, clinical diagnosis, and treatment were collected from outpatients presenting with malaria-like symptoms. Of the 25,486 patients with fever, 69% had NMFI. Non-malarial febrile illness prevalence was lower in 5- to 15-year-old patients (55%) than in children < 5 years (72%) and adults > 15 years of age (77%). The most common clinical diagnoses among febrile patients with negative mRDTs in all age-groups and settings were respiratory infections (46%), sepsis (29%), gastroenteritis (13%), musculoskeletal pain (9%), and malaria (5%). Antibiotic prescribing was high in all age-groups and settings. Trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (40%) and amoxicillin (29%) were the most commonly prescribed antibiotics and were used for nearly all clinical diagnoses. In these settings with minimal access to diagnostic tools, patients with fever and a negative mRDT received a limited number of clinical diagnoses. Many were likely to be inaccurate and were associated with the inappropriate use of the limited range of available antibiotics. Prescription and diagnostic practices for NMFIs in the facilities require research and policy input. Resource-limited malaria-endemic countries urgently need more point-of-care diagnostic tools and evidence-based diagnosis and treatment algorithms to provide effective and cost-efficient care.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.18-0800DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7410417PMC
August 2020

Presentation of life-threatening invasive nontyphoidal Salmonella disease in Malawian children: A prospective observational study.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2017 12 7;11(12):e0006027. Epub 2017 Dec 7.

Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, College of Medicine, University of Malawi, Malawi.

Nontyphoidal Salmonellae commonly cause invasive disease in African children that is often fatal. The clinical diagnosis of these infections is hampered by the absence of a clear clinical syndrome. Drug resistance means that empirical antibiotic therapy is often ineffective and currently no vaccine is available. The study objective was to identify risk factors for mortality among children presenting to hospital with invasive Salmonella disease in Africa. We conducted a prospective study enrolling consecutive children with microbiologically-confirmed invasive Salmonella disease admitted to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, Blantyre, in 2006. Data on clinical presentation, co-morbidities and outcome were used to identify children at risk of inpatient mortality through logistic-regression modeling. Over one calendar year, 263 consecutive children presented with invasive Salmonella disease. Median age was 16 months (range 0-15 years) and 52/256 children (20%; 95%CI 15-25%) died. Nontyphoidal serovars caused 248/263 (94%) of cases. 211/259 (81%) of isolates were multi-drug resistant. 251/263 children presented with bacteremia, 6 with meningitis and 6 with both. Respiratory symptoms were present in 184/240 (77%; 95%CI 71-82%), 123/240 (51%; 95%CI 45-58%) had gastrointestinal symptoms and 101/240 (42%; 95%CI 36-49%) had an overlapping clinical syndrome. Presentation at <7 months (OR 10.0; 95%CI 2.8-35.1), dyspnea (OR 4.2; 95%CI 1.5-12.0) and HIV infection (OR 3.3; 95%CI 1.1-10.2) were independent risk factors for inpatient mortality. Invasive Salmonella disease in Malawi is characterized by high mortality and prevalence of multi-drug resistant isolates, along with non-specific presentation. Young infants, children with dyspnea and HIV-infected children bear a disproportionate burden of the Salmonella-associated mortality in Malawi. Strategies to improve prevention, diagnosis and management of invasive Salmonella disease should be targeted at these children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0006027DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5745124PMC
December 2017

Lymphocyte Perturbations in Malawian Children with Severe and Uncomplicated Malaria.

Clin Vaccine Immunol 2015 Nov 18;23(2):95-103. Epub 2015 Nov 18.

Malawi-Liverpool-Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Programme, College of Medicine, Blantyre, Malawi School of Immunity and Infection, College of Medicine and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom Jenner Institute, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Cambridge, United Kingdom

Lymphocytes are implicated in immunity and pathogenesis of severe malaria. Since lymphocyte subsets vary with age, assessment of their contribution to different etiologies can be difficult. We immunophenotyped peripheral blood from Malawian children presenting with cerebral malaria, severe malarial anemia, and uncomplicated malaria (n = 113) and healthy aparasitemic children (n = 42) in Blantyre, Malawi, and investigated lymphocyte subset counts, activation, and memory status. Children with cerebral malaria were older than those with severe malarial anemia. We found panlymphopenia in children presenting with cerebral malaria (median lymphocyte count, 2,100/μl) and uncomplicated malaria (3,700/μl), which was corrected in convalescence and was absent in severe malarial anemia (5,950/μl). Median percentages of activated CD69(+) NK (73%) and γδ T (60%) cells were higher in cerebral malaria than in other malaria types. Median ratios of memory to naive CD4(+) lymphocytes were higher in cerebral malaria than in uncomplicated malaria and low in severe malarial anemia. The polarized lymphocyte subset profiles of different forms of severe malaria are independent of age. In conclusion, among Malawian children cerebral malaria is characterized by lymphocyte activation and increased memory cells, consistent with immune priming. In contrast, there are reduced memory cells and less activation in severe malaria anemia. Further studies are required to understand whether these immunological profiles indicate predisposition of some children to one or another form of severe malaria.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00564-15DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4744922PMC
November 2015

The effect of local variation in malaria transmission on the prevalence of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine resistant haplotypes and selective sweep characteristics in Malawi.

Malar J 2015 Oct 5;14:387. Epub 2015 Oct 5.

Howard Hughes Medical Institute/Center for Vaccine Development, University of Maryland School of Medicine, 685 West Baltimore Street, HSF1-480, Baltimore, MD, 21201, USA.

Background: Persistence of sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine (SP) resistance has been described in an urban setting in Malawi where malaria transmission is relatively low. Higher malaria transmission is associated with greater genetic diversity and more frequent genetic recombination, which could lead to a more rapid re-emergence of SP-sensitive parasites, as well as more rapid degradation of selective sweeps. In this study, the impact of local variation in malaria transmission on the prevalence of SP-resistant haplotypes and selective sweep characteristics was investigated at an urban site with low parasite prevalence and two rural sites with moderate and high parasite prevalence.

Methods: Samples from three sites with different parasite prevalence were genotyped for resistance markers within pfdhfr-ts and pfdhps and at microsatellites flanking these genes. Expected heterozygosity (He) was estimated to evaluate genetic diversity.

Results: No difference in the prevalence of highly resistant DHFR 51I/59R/108N and DHPS 437G/540E was found between sites. Small differences in He flanking pfdhfr-ts and pfdhps were seen between rural-moderate and the other sites, as well as some shared haplotypes between the rural-high and urban-low sites.

Conclusions: The results do not show an effect of local variation in malaria transmission, as inferred from parasite prevalence, on SP-resistant haplotype prevalence.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12936-015-0860-7DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4595317PMC
October 2015

Viral CNS infections in children from a malaria-endemic area of Malawi: a prospective cohort study.

Lancet Glob Health 2013 Sep;1(3):e153-60

Background: Fever with reduced consciousness is an important cause of hospital admission of children in sub-Saharan Africa, with high mortality. Cerebral malaria, diagnosed when acute Plasmodium falciparum infection and coma are recorded with no other apparent reason, is one important cause. We investigated whether viruses could also be an important cause of CNS infection in such patients, and examined the relative contribution of viral pathogens and malaria parasitaemia.

Methods: We did a prospective cohort study in Blantyre, Malawi. From March 1, 2002, to Aug 31, 2004, we enrolled children aged between 2 months and 15 years who were admitted to hospital with suspected non-bacterial CNS infections. Children with a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) white cell count of less than 1000 cells per μL and negative bacterial microscopy and culture were deemed to have suspected viral CNS infection. Blood was examined for asexual forms of P falciparum. PCR was done on CSF or on post-mortem brain biopsy specimens to detect 15 viruses known to cause CNS infection.

Findings: Full outcome data were available for 513 children with suspected viral CNS infection, of whom 94 (18%) died. 163 children (32%) had P falciparum parasitaemia, of whom 34 (21%) died. At least one virus was detected in the CNS in 133 children (26%), of whom 43 (33%) died. 12 different viruses were detected; adenovirus was the most common, affecting 42 children; mumps, human herpes virus 6, rabies, cytomegalovirus, herpes simplex virus 1, and enterovirus were also important. 45 (9%) of the 513 children had both parasitaemia and viral infection, including 27 (35%) of 78 diagnosed clinically with cerebral malaria. Children with dual infection were more likely to have seizures than were those with parasitaemia alone, viral infection only, or neither (p<0·0001). 17 (38%) of the 45 children with dual infection died, compared with 26 (30%) of 88 with viral infection only, 17 (14%) of 118 with parasitaemia only, and 34 (13%) of 262 with neither (p<0·0001). Logistic regression showed children with a viral CNS infection had a significantly higher mortality than did those who did not have a viral CNS infection (p=0·001).

Interpretation: Viral CNS infections are an important cause of hospital admission and death in children in Malawi, including in children whose coma might be attributed solely to cerebral malaria. Interaction between viral infection and parasitaemia could increase disease severity.

Funding: Wellcome Trust, US National Institutes of Health, and UK Medical Research Council.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(13)70060-3DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3986031PMC
September 2013

Glycerol and acetaminophen as adjuvant therapy did not affect the outcome of bacterial meningitis in Malawian children.

Pediatr Infect Dis J 2014 Feb;33(2):214-6

From the *Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, College of Medicine, Malawi; †Northern Institute for Cancer Research, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; ‡National Institute for Health and Welfare; and §Children's Hospital, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.

We investigated the benefit of 2 candidate adjunctive therapies in bacterial meningitis: glycerol, which has shown promise in earlier studies, and acetaminophen, which is reportedly beneficial in adult septicemia. In a hospital in Blantyre, Malawi, we enrolled 360 children aged ≥ 2 months with proven bacterial meningitis (36% HIV infected) in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of glycerol and acetaminophen in a 2 × 2 factorial design. Of 4 groups, first group received oral glycerol, second received rectal acetaminophen, third received both therapies and the fourth received placebos only. Adjuvant therapies were given for the first 48 hours of antibiotic therapy. Endpoints were mortality and neurological sequelae. Baseline findings were similar across all groups, except that many children had prior antibiotics in the acetaminophen group and many were anemic in the acetaminophen and glycerol group. Outcomes were similar for all groups. We found no benefit from oral glycerol or rectal acetaminophen in, mostly pneumococcal, meningitis in Malawian children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/INF.0000000000000122DOI Listing
February 2014

Histidine-rich protein 2 plasma levels predict progression to cerebral malaria in Malawian children with Plasmodium falciparum infection.

J Infect Dis 2013 Aug 22;208(3):500-3. Epub 2013 Apr 22.

Department of Osteopathic Medical Specialties, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA.

Some children with uncomplicated malaria progress to cerebral malaria despite appropriate treatment; identifying them in advance might improve their care. The objective of this study was to determine if plasma concentrations of a malaria protein, HRP2 (histidine-rich protein 2) would serve this purpose. Cases and controls were children presenting with uncomplicated malaria; the cases (n = 25) developed cerebral malaria, and the controls (n = 125) did not. Mean plasma HRP2 concentrations were significantly higher in the cases, and an HRP2 cutoff was identified that could predict disease progression (sensitivity and specificity, 88% for each). Quantitative measurements of HRP2 may be a useful screening tool.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jit176DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3699003PMC
August 2013

Plasma concentrations of parasite histidine-rich protein 2 distinguish between retinopathy-positive and retinopathy-negative cerebral malaria in Malawian children.

J Infect Dis 2012 Aug 25;206(3):309-18. Epub 2012 May 25.

Blantyre Malaria Project, University of Malawi College of Medicine, Blantyre.

Background: Brain histology and ophthalmoscopy suggest that approximately 25% of children with World Health Organization-defined cerebral malaria (CM) have a nonmalarial cause of death. Misclassification complicates clinical care, confounds studies of association, and may obfuscate successes in malaria control. Retinopathy predicts intracerebral parasite sequestration with >90% sensitivity and specificity, but detecting retinopathy requires well-trained personnel and expensive equipment.

Methods: We investigated the utility of plasma concentrations of parasite histidine-rich protein 2 (pHRP2), a Plasmodium-specific protein, as a predictor of intracerebral parasite sequestration at autopsy and of malaria retinopathy on clinical examination in patients with clinically defined CM.

Results: In 64 autopsy cases, 47 of whom had histological evidence of sequestration, the sensitivity and specificity of a plasma pHRP2 level of >1700 ng/mL were 98% and 94%, respectively, and the area under the receiver operating characteristic (AUROC) curve was 0.98. In a separate, prospectively studied group of 101 children with clinically defined CM, of whom 71 had retinopathy, the same pHRP2 cutoff predicted retinopathy-positivity with a sensitivity of 90% and specificity of 87% (AUROC, 0.90).

Conclusions: Elevated plasma pHRP2 concentrations can identify Malawian children with histologically confirmed or retinopathy-positive CM and is a more field-friendly approach to confirming the diagnosis than post mortem sampling or ophthalmoscopy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/infdis/jis371DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3490698PMC
August 2012