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New Epidemiological Data on the Incidence of Burkitt Lymphoma in Mozambique

The results show a larger number of cases in regions where intensity of malaria transmission is higher

Photo: Stig Nygaard

 A study led by ISGlobal shows an increased incidence of endemic Burkitt lymphoma in regions of Mozambique where the intensity of malaria transmission is higher. The study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, provides for the first time epidemiological data at the regional level for this paediatric cancer in Mozambique and exemplifies how the different ISGlobal areas (infectious diseases and non-communicable diseases) can join their expertise to tackle global health issues. 

The endemic Burkitt lymphoma (eBL) results from the translocation of a gene (called MYC), is associated to infection by the Epstein Barr virus, and is predominant in Equatorial Africa (where it accounts for 50% of paediatric cancers) and other regions in the world where malaria transmission is high.  Although the ecological association between eBL and Plasmodium falciparum (the main malaria-causing parasite in Africa) was described in 1970, the reasons underlying this association remain poorly understood. To solve this, one key requisite is to have a better description of eBL epidemiology in order to evaluate changes in trends between and within countries, especially with the implementation of malaria control programs.   

The goal of the study was to better characterize the burden and incidence of eBL in Mozambique, a country that forms part of the “eBL belt” and where malaria transmission is high but variable according to the region and the season of the year. The results, obtained from data collected in three hospitals over one decade and with the collaboration of Mozambican researchers, show that the average incidence for the country is comparable to that observed in Kenya and other neighbouring countries. The results also provide, for the first time, estimates of incidence rates for different regions of the country and show that the incidence is higher in the northern region of the country, where the intensity of malaria transmission is also higher.  The authors conclude that more studies at the regional level are needed in order to identify risk factors and eventually implement measures for the control of the disease. 

“This study is particularly relevant since it represents a combined effort of researchers from the infectious and the non-communicable disease areas, and is one of the first joint publications after the merger of CREAL into ISGlobal”, explains Manolis Kogevinas, senior author of the study.      


O'Callaghan-Gordo C, Casabonne D, Carrilho C, Ferro J, Lorenzoni C, Zaqueu C, Nhabomba A, Aguilar R, Bassat Q, de Sanjosé S, Dobaño C, Kogevinas M. Incidence of Endemic Burkitt Lymphoma in Three Regions of Mozambique. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2016 Oct 31.