New findings suggest a possible epidemiological interaction between hepatitis C, hepatitis B and Plasmodium falciparum infections. Age was a key factor in this association and hepatitis C virus led to slower emergence of P. falciparum in the blood, according to Odile Ouwe-Missi-Oukem-Boyer, PhD, and colleagues.

In the pilot study, researchers assigned 319 participants, aged between 13 and 85 residing in Dienga, Africa, to a curative antimalarial treatment. Microscopy and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were used to monitor the emergence of P. falciparum in participant’s blood every 2 weeks for 1 year duration.

Sixty-five participants tested positive for malaria parasites; 61 were HCV carriers; 36 were HBV carriers; and P. falciparum was detected in 203 patients at 1 year follow-up. Of those with P. falciparum, 25 were HBV carriers and 28 were HCV carriers. Most HBV carriers were younger than 30 years; the likelihood of HCV infection increased significantly with age.

Median time to P. falciparum emergence in blood was 140 days and 120 days in HBV-negative and positive participants, and 135 days and 224 days in HCV-negative and positive participants, respectively. Compared with those without HCV infection, HCV carriage was associated with a slower emergence of P. falciparum infection in the blood.

HCV carrier status but not HBV carrier status was significantly associated with slower emergence of malaria parasites in univariate analysis, along with older age and self-medication,” the researchers wrote. “The relation with HCV carrier status was confirmed in multivariate analysis, although the P value was just above the threshold of significance. As age is a confounding factor, the influence of HCV infection on the natural course of P. falciparummalaria would be best examined in a case-control study.”

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.