London: Malaria kills over 1.2 million people every year worldwide, twice as many deaths as thought earlier, while deaths from the mosquito-borne disease in India could be more than 45 times higher than what is currently estimated, a new study has claimed.
Researchers at the University of Washington's Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation who collected data on malaria deaths from 1980 to 2010 found that 1.2 million people died of the disease in 2010 worldwide.
The figure is double than the 650,000 malaria-related deaths reported in the World Malaria Report released last year by the World Health Organisation.
For India, the study has estimated 4,826 malaria deaths among children below five years and 42,145 deaths among those aged over five and older for the year 2010, accounting about 46,970 total deaths of people of all ages.
But the figures from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme show that only 1,023 people died of malaria infection that year.
The new study, published in 'The Lancet', also shows that the number of deaths has come down significantly because of increased malaria prevention and drug treatments.
In 2002, malaria-related deaths in India were 19,000 in children younger than five years and 87,000 in those aged five years or older.
"In our analysis for India, we include all available sources of data for malaria mortality," said the authors, led by led by Prof Christopher Murray.
"We include data from the Sample Registration Scheme of the National Family Health Survey and the Sample Registration Scheme, both of which record high rates of malaria mortality.
We also include findings from the Survey of Causes of Death from 1980 to 1990 and the Medical Certification of Causes of Death from 1990 to 2004."
The authors also found that while many believe most malaria deaths occur in children under age five, in fact, 42 per cent of all malaria deaths occur in older children and adults.
Compared to the World Malaria Report 2011, our estimates of deaths were 13 times higher for children younger than five years in Africa, 81 times higher for those aged five years or older in Africa, and 18 times higher for individuals of all ages outside of Africa, the researchers said.
"You learn in medical school that people exposed to malaria as children develop immunity and rarely die from malaria as adults," said Dr Christopher Murray, IHME Director and the study s lead author.
"What we have found in hospital records, death records, surveys and other sources shows that just is not the case." "With few exceptions, the proportion of malaria deaths in adults in each country examined was almost always more than 40 per cent," the authors said.
They also said that since the global peak in 2004, there has been a substantial decrease in malaria deaths that is attributable to the rapid, although variable, scale-up of control activities in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, more malaria mortality means that short-term goals, the reduction of malaria deaths to zero by 2015 might be unrealistic, they added.
"We estimated that if decreases from the peak year of 2004 continue, malaria mortality will decrease to less than 100,000 deaths only after 2020," they concluded.