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Background: Placental parasitic infections continue to be a public health problem despite numerous interventions put in place. Placental parasitic infections reported are Toxoplasma, Trypanosome, Borrelia, Schistosoma, Hookworm and Plasmodia. The infections persist to cause poor pregnancy outcomes such as maternal anaemia, low birth weight and stillbirth. This study aimed to determine the prevalence and pregnancy outcomes associated with placental parasitic infections at a tertiary hospital in northern Tanzania.
Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted at Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre between June and July 2016. Pregnant women were interviewed before delivery and additional information obtained from their medical files. Blood samples as well as placental material were collected from each mother. Malaria was tested using a malaria rapid diagnostic test (mRDT). A total of 80 placental slide sections were made following histological protocols. After staining, slide sections were examined for the presence of parasites microscopically. Pearson’s Chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests were used to test for differences between groups.
Results: Placental malaria parasites were found on histological examination of 8(10%) mothers’ placental sections, none of whom had a positive mRDT. Education status was significantly associated with placental malaria (p=0.035). Stillbirth, maternal anaemia and pre-eclampsia were significantly associated with placenta malaria (p<0.05).
Conclusion: Placental malaria was found to be prevalent in the studied population and was associated with stillbirth, maternal anaemia and pre-eclampsia. Efforts for developing malaria tests that will detect subclinical infections are needed in order to identify infections early and offer prompt treatment to prevent poor pregnant outcomes.