Malaria is a parasitic infection that is spread by the Anopheles mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are the vector (vector is an organism that transmits a pathogen to its host) of malaria. The parasite (Plasmodium) that causes malaria is neither a virus nor a bacterium. The parasite is a single-celled organism that multiplies in the mosquito intestine and also in the red blood cells of humans. Malaria occurs when the female mosquito feeds on an infected individual; male and female forms of the parasite are ingested from the infected individual blood. The male and female forms of the parasite then meet and mate in the mosquito gut, and the infective forms are passed into another human when the mosquito feeds again. Malaria is most commonly diagnosis using microscopic examination of blood films or antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests.
Malaria kills about 655,000 people every year and there are about 216 million cases of the disease worldwide. The disease is common in tropical and subtropical regions such as the Middle East, Africa, Central South America, Hispaniola and Oceania.
There are several drugs available that can prevent an individual from getting malaria, if or when they travel to malaria endemic area.
Causes of Malaria
Malaria is cause by mosquitoes that carry a protozoan called Plasmodium. The protozoan is carried in the salivary glands of some types of mosquito. You can only get malaria if you are bitten by an infected mosquito or if infected blood enters your blood stream (blood transfusion). Malaria can also be transmitted on from mother to child during pregnancy. There are four type of the Plasmodium parasite that can result in malaria in human: P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae. P. falciparum and P. vivax are the two most common types, with Plasmodium falciparum been the most dangerous of the four because it can kill quickly.
The symptoms of malaria usually appear 12 to 14 days after infection.
- abdominal pain
- chills and sweats
- diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting (these symptoms only appear sometimes)
- high fevers
- low blood pressure causing dizziness if moving from a lying or sitting position to a standing position (also called orthostatic hypotension)
- muscle aches
- poor appetite
- Draining of wet areas that enable mosquitoes to breed
- Wearing clothing to prevent mosquitoes bites
- Using nets to prevent mosquitoes bites
- Taking anti-malarial tablets
Malaria is treated base on the severity of the disease. Oral medications maybe use to treat uncomplicated malaria. The treatment of the P. falciparum infection is conducted using artemisinins along with other antimalarials (known as artemisinin-combination therapy, or ACT), that is done to prevent the parasite from developing immunity to any single drug component. Additional Antimalarials include lumefantrine, amodiaquine, mefloquine or sulfadoxine/pyrimethamine. ACT is about 90% effective in treating simple malaria infection. Parental Administration of antimalarials is required for the treatment of serve malaria along with supportive measures such as fever control, which is carried out in a critical care unit. Malaria is curable with medication (anti-malarial medication).