Atypical lymphocytes in malaria mimicking dengue infection in Thailand
Polrat Wilairatana1, Noppadon Tangpukdee1, Sant Muangnoicharoen1, Srivicha Krudsood2, Shigeyuki Kano3
1Department of Clinical Tropical Medicine, 2Department of Tropical Hygiene, Faculty of Tropical Medicine, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand; 3Department of Tropical Medicine and Malaria, Research Institute, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Tokyo, Japan
Abstract: Patients with uncomplicated falciparum or vivax malaria usually present with acute febrile illness and thrombocytopenia similar to dengue infection. We retrospectively studied atypical lymphocytes (AL) and atypical lymphocytosis (ALO, defined as AL > 5% of total white blood cells) in 1310 uncomplicated malaria patients. In 718 falciparum malaria patients, AL and ALO on day 0 were found in 53.2% and 5.7% of the patients, respectively, with median AL on admission of 1% (range 0%–10%), whereas in 592 vivax malaria patients, AL and ALO on day 0 were found in 55.4% and 9.5% of the patients, respectively, with median AL on admission of 1% (range 0%–14%). After antimalarial treatment, AL and ALO declined in both falciparum and vivax malaria. However, AL and ALO remained in falciparum malaria on days 7, 14, and 21, whereas AL and ALO remained in vivax malaria on days 7, 14, 21, and 28. In both falciparum and vivax malaria patients, there was a positive correlation between AL and total lymphocytes, but a negative correlation between AL and highest fever on admission, white blood cells, and neutrophils, eosinophils, and platelets (P < 0.05). In conclusion, AL or ALO may be found in uncomplicated falciparum and vivax malaria mimicking dengue infection. In tropical countries where both dengue and malaria are endemic, presence of AL or ALO in any acute febrile patients with thrombocytopenia (similar to the findings in dengue) malaria could not be excluded. Particularly if the patients have risk of malaria infection, confirmative microscopic examination for malaria should be carried out.
Keywords: malaria, dengue, atypical lymphocytes
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