The researchers' study, published in The Lancet, found global malaria deaths increased from 995,000 in 1980 to a peak of 1.82 million deaths in 2004 and then falling to 1.24 million in 2010.
The increase up to 2004 was due to a growth in populations at risk of malaria, and the decline since then is the result of a massive malaria control program in Africa, the study said.
Christopher Murray, a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues said during the past decade, renewed global and national efforts to combat malaria have led to ambitious goals.
"We systematically collected all available data for malaria mortality for the period 1980 to 2010, correcting for misclassification bias. We developed a range of predictive models, including ensemble models, to estimate malaria mortality with uncertainty by age, sex, country, and year," Murray said. "We used key predictors of malaria mortality such as parasite prevalence, first-line anti-malarial drug resistance, and vector control."