The World Health Organisation on Thursday expressed serious doubts over the high estimates of 200,000 malaria deaths in India as reported in The Lancet magazine. The WHO has questioned the methodology used by the authors of the study.
The report in The Lancet pertained to a study in which the researchers had used the verbal autopsy method which is suitable only for diseases with distinctive symptoms and not for malaria.
Malaria cannot be correctly identified by the local population as it has symptoms similar to many other diseases.
The verbal autopsy method is likely to give false positives, as with the method there was the possibility of deaths from other diseases with similar symptoms be reported as malaria deaths.
In areas where the incidence of malaria is low, the symptoms are difficult to distinguish, resulting in overestimates of malaria deaths from the method, a statement issued by the WHO in New Delhi said.
The WHO said, the organisation welcomed independent studies for estimation of malaria deaths, provided the method used was appropriate. The limitations of verbal autopsy, coupled with the implausibly high incidence rates implied by the malaria mortality estimates, point to a need for further validation before the study can be accepted, the organisation said.