New Delhi: Malaria can have a serious impact on reproductive health, experts said on the occasion of World Malaria Day today as they pointed out that, although rare, the disease can hamper semen quality in males and increase miscarriage risks in women.
When a man suffers from high-grade fever during malaria, he may develop severe azoospermia (no measurable level of sperm in semen), necrozoospermia (sperm in semen is either dead or immobile) or oligospermia (low sperm count), experts said.
However, in most of the cases, recovery occurs once the person is cured of malaria. Thus, success rates are comparatively low among couples who try to conceive around the period when the male partner is affected with malaria or has just recovered from the disease.
"Not many are aware that a parasitic disease like malaria can affect the reproductive health of both men and women.
We sometimes see that quinine and chloroquine, the anti-malarial alkaloids that are used to treat the disease, impact the quality of sperm and blood levels of some reproductive hormones in males.
"In some cases, they also hamper the egg quality in females. Malaria also increases miscarriage risks. However, more research needs to be done to ascertain the exact effects of malaria on male and female infertility," said Dr Kaberi Banerjee, a leading IVF and infertility specialist.
Dr KK Aggarwal, Secretary General of Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, "The vulnerable group when it comes to malaria are children, pregnant women and the elderly.
Malaria in pregnancy can cause a low birth weight infant, abortions and premature delivery and should not be ignored and treated early.
"An unexpected abortion of this nature can cause long-term infertility in patients."
Being diagnosed with malaria during pregnancy can harm both the mother and the unborn foetus. It can cause severe parasitic infection and anaemia in the foetus thus becoming a major cause of maternal mortality.
The disease can also cause premature birth or low weight, which leads to increased risk of neonatal mortality, he added.