Malaria and the Heart: JACC State-of-the-Art Review

J Am Coll Cardiol. 2021 Mar 2;77(8):1110-1121

As one of the tropical diseases, malaria is endemic in developing countries. Severe malaria, mainly caused by the Plasmodium falciparum parasite, can result in life-threatening complications. Traditionally, cardiac involvement has not been included as a frequent cause of morbidity and mortality. This could be due to under-reporting or underdiagnosing. Specific cardiovascular (CV) complications include electrocardiogram abnormalities, myocarditis, pericarditis, pericardial effusion, ischemic disease, and heart failure. According to the data analyzed, CV manifestations can lead to severe consequences. Possible theories related to the pathophysiological mechanisms related to CV compromise include an imbalanced pro-inflammatory cytokine response and/or erythrocyte sequestration by increased cytoadherence to endothelium. Although there is a paucity of data regarding cardiac manifestations of malaria, an algorithm for appropriate use of diagnostic tools to assess cardiac involvement has been developed in this paper. Furthermore, it is important to note that typical antimalarial treatment regimens can have fatal cardiac side-effects.