When fever is not malaria in Latin America: a systematic review

BMC Medicine
21 Sep 2020
José Moreira, Janaina Barros, Oscar Lapouble, Marcus V. G. Lacerda, Ingrid Felger, Patricia Brasil, Sabine Dittrich & Andre M. Siqueira


In malaria-endemic countries, febrile episodes caused by diseases other than malaria are a growing concern. However, limited knowledge of the prevalent etiologic agents and their geographic distributions restrict the ability of health services to address non-malarial morbidity and mortality through effective case management. Here, we review the etiology of fever in Latin America (LA) between 1980 and 2015 and map significant pathogens commonly implicated in febrile infectious diseases.


A literature search was conducted, without language restrictions, in three distinct databases in order to identify fever etiology studies that report laboratory-confirmed fever-causing pathogens that were isolated from usually sterile body sites. Data analyses and mapping was conducted with Tableau Desktop (version 2018.2.3).


Inclusion criteria were met by 625 publications corresponding to data relative to 34 countries. Studies using serology (n = 339) predominated for viral infections, culture (n = 131) for bacteria, and microscopy (n = 62) for fungi and parasites. The pathogen groups most frequently reported were viral infections (n = 277), bacterial infections (n = 265), parasitic infections (n = 59), fungal infections (n = 47), and more than one pathogen group (n = 24). The most frequently reported virus was dengue virus (n = 171), followed by other arboviruses (n = 55), and hantavirus (n = 18). For bacteria, Staphylococcus spp. (n = 82), Rickettsia spp. (n = 70), and Leptospira spp. (n = 55) were frequently reported. Areas with biggest gaps on etiology of fever were apparent.


This review provides a landscape of pathogens causing febrile illness other than malaria in LA for over 30 years. Our findings highlight the need to standardize protocols and report guidelines for fever etiology studies for better comparability of results and improved interpretation. Lastly, we should improve existing national laboratory surveillance systems, especially from low- to middle-income countries, to inform global fever policy priorities and timely identify emerging infections threats.