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Key Information About Malaria

Updated on July 26, 2019
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Srikanth is passionate about helping people improve their quality of life.

Malaria is a disease that is caused by sporozoan parasites (genus Plasmodium) in the red blood cells.

Annually, there are 584,000 deaths from malaria worldwide, with 90 percent occurring in Africa. It remains one of the most serious global health problems.

A strain of malaria resistant to two key anti-malarial medicines became dominant in Vietnam, Laos and northern Thailand in July 2019 after spreading rapidly from Cambodia.

Using genomic surveillance to track the spread of drug-resistant malaria, the scientists found that the strain, known as KEL1/PLA1, had evolved and picked up new genetic mutations making it more resistant.

Malaria Parasite Life Cycle

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Causes

Malaria can occur if a mosquito infected with the Plasmodium parasite bites you. This parasite is spread by female Anopheles mosquitoes, which are known as "night-biting" mosquitoes because they most commonly bite between dusk and dawn.

Ways you can catch the disease from a person is through blood transfusions, shared needles, from mother to child in "congenital malaria," or organ transplants.

Electron Micrograph of Malaria Parasite

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Wikimedia Commons | Source

Types of Malaria Parasites

 
Plasmodium falciparum
Plasmodium malariae
Plasmodium vivax
Plasmodium ovale
Plasmodium knowlesi

Symptoms

Malaria attack usually starts with shivering and chills, followed by a high fever, followed by sweating and a return to normal temperature.

The same pattern of symptoms — chills, fever, sweating — may repeat every two or three days, depending on which malaria parasite is causing the infection.

Malaria signs and symptoms typically begin within a few weeks after the mosquito bite.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons | Source

Complications

Malaria can develop to anemia, hypoglycemia, or cerebral malaria, in which capillaries carrying blood to the brain are blocked. Cerebral malaria can cause coma, life-long-learning disabilities, and death.

Progression of the disease can result in spleen enlargement and liver enlargement. In severe cases it can cause neurological problems.

Prognosis

Plasmodium falciparum infection carries a poor prognosis with a high mortality if untreated, but it has an excellent prognosis if diagnosed early and treated appropriately.

Diagnosis

Malaria parasites can be identified by examining under the microscope a drop of the patient's blood, spread out as a “blood smear” on a microscope slide.

Treatment

Treatment depends on various factors that include severity, Plasmodium species infecting the patient and the potential for drug resistance of species and strains of Plasmodium. In general, it takes around two weeks of treatment to be cured of this disease. Artemisinin-based combination therapies are used to treat malaria.

Prevention

As of now there is no malaria vaccine commercially available to prevent the disease.

Stay in well-screened areas at night. Use a bed-net impregnated with insecticides. Use a mosquito repellent.

Before you travel, check the CDC’s website to see whether your destination is a hotspot for malaria.

You may have to take pills before, during, and after your trip to reduce the risk.

Do you use mosquito net?

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Summary

Around 90 percent of malaria deaths occur in Africa.

High fever is a symptom of malaria.

Cerebral malaria can cause life-long-learning disabilities.

There is no vaccine for malaria.

Treatment depends on Plasmodium species.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2019 Srikanth R

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    • srirad0675 profile imageAUTHOR

      Srikanth R 

      4 weeks ago

      Thank you.

    • Lorna Lamon profile image

      Lorna Lamon 

      4 weeks ago

      It's so important for people to be aware of the dangers of malaria and in particular if travelling. Your article is full of useful advice.

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