I’m trying to find out if having malaria at a young age can have long term effects on health.
Around 25 years ago when I was 4 years old I contracted malaria when living in central Africa. Unfortunately I do not know the type of malaria, only that I received medication and recovered without complications.
Over the last few years I’ve had a general feeling of poor health and fatigue. Blood tests indicate I have some level of liver damage but I’m at a loss for the cause.
Is there any chance of having picked up liver damage (or other long term effects) from contracting malaria at a young age?
There is little evidence for any long term complications associated with uncomplicated malaria infection. One thing to investigate might be the type of malaria you had as a child; Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale, while not as common as Plasmodium falciparum in Central Africa, both occur in this region, and differ from P. falciparum in that they can have a dormant liver stage.
While I still have not heard of liver problems being associated with dormant malaria parasites, it is conceivable that if you had one of these two types of malaria and did not have the liver stages treated, you might later feel some ill effects; relapse from P. vivax has been known to occur decades after the initial infection. The good news is that there is a drug available, called primaquine, which can kill these liver stages (known as hypnozoites). So, if you know you had P. vivax or P. ovale, you could mention this possibility to your doctor—prior to taking primaquine you should have a test for G6DP deficiency, as such as deficiency makes it dangerous to take this medication.
If you have ever taken anti-malaria medication, please take Malaria.com’s brief Malaria Medication Side-effects Survey: Treatment and Prophylaxis.