Jaundice is not an unusual accompaniment of malaria. It can occur due to intravascular hemolysis, disseminated intravascular coagulation, and, rarely, ‘malarial hepatitis’. Although the primary schizogony of the malarial parasite always leads to the rupture of the infected hepatocyte, alteration of the hepatic functions is uncommonly recorded due to this event. Histologically, the hepatitis or the actual inflammation in the liver has never been demonstrated. Nonetheless, the term ‘malarial hepatitis’ (MH) has been used in the literature to describe the occurrence of hepatocellular jaundice in patients with Plasmodium falciparum infection. The authors’ own data and review of the literature indicate that it is not an uncommon entity. In endemic areas, jaundice is seen in approximately 2.5% of patients with falciparum malaria. It also appears to be a heterogeneous syndrome and one can recognize two clinical subsets. In one group there was an acute, virulent presentation with coma, renal failure and in some cases even hemorrhagic manifestations. It is only in this setting that jaundice signified a ‘severe’ disease as noted by the World Health Organization action program. This presentation is often confused with acute viral hepatitis and acute hepatic failure in non-endemic areas, but can be clinically differentiated.
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