Sixty years trying to define the malaria burden in Africa: have we made any progress?
Controversy surrounds the precise numbers of malaria deaths and clinical episodes in Africa. This would not have surprised malariologists working in Africa 60 years ago as they began to unravel the enigma that is 'malaria'. Malaria is a complex disease manifesting as a multitude of symptoms, degrees of severity and indirect morbid consequences. Clinical immunity develops quickly and the presence of infection cannot always be used to distinguish between malaria and other illnesses. During the 1950s and 1960s parasite prevalence was used in preference to statistics on malaria mortality and morbidity. An argument is made for a resurrection of this measure of the quantity of malaria across Africa as a more reliable means to understand the impact of control.