According to a study conducted in Cruzeiro do Sul in the state of Acre, North Brazil, babies are relatively protected against malaria in the first year of their lives, but after that infections are more frequent, making infants and toddlers susceptible to anemia, which can impair child development. Cruzeiro do Sul ranks fourth among Brazilian cities for cases of malaria in proportion to the local population.
“The first two years of life are critical for neurological development. Iron deficiency, the main cause of anemia in children, has an irreversible impact on child development. As a result, it also affects human capital and the health of future adolescents and adults in malaria-endemic areas,” said Marly Augusto Cardoso, a professor at the University of São Paulo’s School of Public Health (FSP-USP) in Brazil.
Cardoso was the principal investigator for the study, which was conducted as part of a broader survey supported by FAPESP on maternal and child health and nutrition in Acre (MINA). The findings are published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.
“This is the first population-based birth cohort study of the western Brazilian Amazon,” Cardoso said. Cohort studies are important to epidemiologists because they record whether participants are exposed to the disease of interest, and then track participants to see if they develop the disease. “The aim was to identify the determinants of maternal and child health in the first 1,000 days of the baby’s life. Besides the problems found in other parts of Brazil and other low- and medium-income countries, Cruzeiro do Sul has the additional health hazard of endemic malaria. We’re investigating the occurrence of other tropical infectious diseases, such as dengue and chikungunya, as well as malaria.”