Approximately 2 ml of venous blood was collected in ethylenediamine tetra-acetate tubes for malaria parasite detection and haematological analysis. Thick and thin blood films were prepared in situ, following standard operational protocol [30]. Thin blood films fixed in methanol and thick blood films were Giemsa stained and examined microscopically following standard procedures [30]. Slides were considered positive when asexual forms and/or gametocytes of any Plasmodium species were observed on the blood film. All the slides were read twice by two independent microscopists. Malaria parasite per µl of blood was determined by counting the number of parasites per 200 leukocytes and multiplying by the individuals white blood cell (WBC) count. Parasitaemia was classified as low (≤ 500 parasite/µl of blood), moderate (501–5000 parasites/µl of blood) and high (> 5000 parasites/µl of blood).

A complete blood count was ran using a Beckman Coulter counter (Urit 3300, Guilin Botest Medical Electronic Co., Ltd., Guilin, China) that automatically gave values for red blood cell (RBC), WBC and platelet counts, haemoglobin (Hb), haematocrit (Hct), mean cell volume (MCV), mean cell haemoglobin (MCH), mean cell haemoglobin concentration (MCHC) following the manufacturer’s instructions. The classification of anaemia (Hb concentration below the WHO reference values for age or gender) and its severity was done following WHO standards (mild anaemia = 100–109 g/L, moderate anaemia = 70–99 g/L and severe anaemia < 70 g/L) [25, 26]. Leucopenia was defined as WBC < 4.5 × 109/L, hypochromasia as MCHC < 32 g/L [31], microcytosis as MCV < 73 fl and thrombocytopenia was defined as platelet count < 150 000/μl.

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