Introduction to Malaria

What is malaria?

Malaria has been one of the most common mosquito-borne diseases that have continually threatened humans for many years. Up until now, it still has been a problem especially in many of the poverty stricken areas of the world.

In mostly affects tropical and sub-tropical regions such as parts of the Americas, Africa as well as Asia. Malaria affects over 500 million people around the world yearly and is the cause of death for one to three million people every year.

Malaria has been a public health problem for many nations aside from being one of the most common of infectious diseases. It is caused by protozoan parasites that belong to the genus Plasmodium of which four types can infect humans. These parasites are transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes.

Once an infected mosquito bites a human, the parasite is transmitted through the blood. The parasites then multiply within red blood cells which cause symptoms such as anemia as well as fever, nausea, chills and flu-like illness. In severe cases, malaria can lead to coma and even death.

What causes malaria?

The main mode of transmission of the disease is through the Anopheles mosquito. As a mosquito takes a blood meal from an infected host, the parasite that causes malaria then is transmitted to the mosquito. The sporozoites then travel to the salivary glands of the mosquito when it becomes ready to infect other hosts. Once the mosquito takes another blood meal, the sporozoites are then transmitted to the new host.

Parasites that cause malaria in humans first enter the bloodstream and then migrate to the liver. From there the parasites begin to multiply asexually for a period of six to fifteen days. This leads to the organisms becoming merozoites that escape into the blood to infect red blood cells. The parasites escape undetected from the liver by wrapping itself in the cell membrane of the host liver cell.

The parasite is also protected from attack by the body’s immune system because it resides within the liver and red blood cells and is invisible from the body’s immune surveillance. Symptoms of the disease include fever, vomiting, convulsions. A classical symptom of malaria is a cycle of feeling of coldness followed by rigor and then fever and sweating that can last for four to six hours.

How to diagnose malaria?

The disease can be diagnosed through a microscopic evaluation of a person’s blood film. This is due to the fact that the different types of malarial parasites have their own distinguishing characteristics. Another method is the use of antigen detection tests that require only a drop of blood. This can be used in places where the required laboratory staff and facilities are not available.

How to treat malaria?

Malaria may be treated differently depending on the type of malarial parasite that infects a person. Malaria caused by the P. falciparum parasite requires hospitalization while malaria caused by the other three types of malarial parasites is usually treated on an outpatient basis.