Malaria and the microbiome: A systematic review

Matthew M. Ippolito, Joshua E. Denny, Charles Langelier, Cynthia L. Sears, Nathan W. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background. The microbiome influences malaria parasite fitness and transmission efficiency in mosquitoes and appears to affect malaria dynamics in mammalian hosts as well. Nascent research examining the interrelationship of malaria and the mammalian microbiome has yielded interesting insights inviting further study. Methods. We conducted a systematic review of the literature examining associations between the microbiome and malaria in mammalian hosts. An electronic search algorithm was adapted to PubMed, MEDLINE, Scopus, Embase, and Web of Science, and reference lists of relevant sources were manually searched. Identified studies were screened and assessed independently by 2 authors, and results were compiled in a qualitative synthesis of the evidence. Results. Ten relevant studies were identified. They demonstrate associations between certain intestinal communities and protection against Plasmodium infection and modulation of disease severity. Plasmodium infection acutely and reversibly reshapes gut microbial composition in mice. The makeup of human skin microbial communities may influence mosquito attraction and thus disease transmission. Conclusions. Early research supports a relationship between malaria and the microbiome. The evidence is incomplete, but the observed associations are evocative and signal a promising avenue of inquiry. Microbiome-based studies of malaria can be readily integrated into field-based research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1831-1839
Number of pages9
JournalClinical Infectious Diseases
Issue number12
StatePublished - 2018


  • Malaria
  • Microbiome
  • Plasmodium
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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