Plasmodium in the bone marrow: case series from a hospital in Pakistan, 2007–2015

Shaikh M.S., Ali B., Janjua M., Akbar A., Haider S.A., Moiz B., Raheem A., Baird J.K., Beg M.A.

Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, The Aga Khan University Hospital, Stadium Road, Karachi, 74800, Pakistan; Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan; Eijkman-Oxford Clinical Research Unit, Jakarta, Indonesia; Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health, Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom


Background: Malaria is a life-threatening, multisystem disease caused by the plasmodial parasite with a global incidence of approximately 229 million annually. The parasites are known to have unique and crucial interactions with various body tissues during its life cycle, notably the liver, spleen, and recent work has shown the bone marrow to be a reservoir of infection. Methods: This study is a case series of patients in whom examination of bone marrow revealed malarial parasites. A retrospective record review of 35 parasite-positive bone marrow specimens examined at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi, Pakistan, over the years 2007 to 2015 was conducted. Bone marrow aspirates were collected as per International Council for Standardization in Haematology (ICSH) guidelines. Results: The median age of patients was 22 years (range 1–75), and 60 % (n = 21) were male. 22 patients had evidence of Plasmodium falciparum, 12 had evidence of Plasmodium vivax and 1 patient had a mixed infection. Gametocytes and trophozoites were the most common stages identified on both peripheral blood and bone marrow examinations. Indications for bone marrow examination included fever of unknown origin and the workup of cytopenias and malignancies. Conclusions: The incidental finding of Plasmodium in samples of bone marrow suggests the reticuloendothelial system may be regularly harbour these parasites, be the infection acute or chronic in character. © 2021, The Author(s).

Bone marrow; Malaria; Pakistan; Plasmodium; Reticuloendothelial


Malaria Journal

Publisher: BioMed Central Ltd

Volume 20, Issue 1, Art No 254, Page – , Page Count

Journal Link:

doi: 10.1186/s12936-021-03792-1

Issn: 14752875

Type: All Open Access, Gold, Green


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