Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by parasites transmitted to humans through the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Once an infected mosquito bites a human and transmits the parasites, those parasites multiply in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying red blood cells.
The disease can be controlled and treated if diagnosed early on. Unfortunately, this is not possible in some areas of the world lacking in medical facilities, where malaria outbreaks can occur.
Researchers are working hard on improving the prevention of malarial infection, early diagnosis and treatment, with just one malaria vaccine close to being licensed so far.
Causes of malaria
Malaria is caused by the bites from the female Anopheles mosquito, which then infects the body with the parasite Plasmodium. This is the only mosquito that can cause malaria.
The successful development of the parasite within the mosquito depends on several factors, the most important being humidity and ambient temperatures.
When an infected mosquito bites a human host, the parasite enters the bloodstream and lays dormant within the liver. For the next 5-16 days, the host will show no symptoms but the malaria parasite will begin multiplying asexually.7
The new malaria parasites are then released back into the bloodstream when they infect red blood cells and again begin to multiply. Some malaria parasites, however, remain in the liver and are not released until later, resulting in recurrence.
An unaffected mosquito becomes infected once it feeds on an infected individual, thus beginning the cycle again.
Symptoms of malaria
Symptoms of malaria typically last 6-10 hours and occur in cycles that occur every second day, although some strains of the parasite can cause a longer cycle or mixed symptoms. Symptoms are often flu-like and may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in areas where malaria is less common. In areas where malaria is common, many patients recognise the symptoms as malaria and treat themselves without proper medical care.
Malaria typically has the following progression of symptoms through cold, hot and sweating stages:
- Sensation of cold, shivering
- Fever, headaches, and vomiting (seizures sometimes occur in young children)
- Sweats followed by a return to normal temperature, with tiredness.
- Fever and chills
- Impaired consciousness
- Prostration (adopting a prone or prayer position)
- Multiple convulsions
- Deep breathing and respiratory distress
- Abnormal bleeding and signs of anemia
- Clinical jaundice and evidence of vital organ dysfunction.
Early diagnosis of malaria is critical for a patient’s recovery. Any individual showing signs of malaria should be tested immediately. If left untreated, malaria can be fatal. The aim of treatment is to eliminate the Plasmodium parasite from the patient’s bloodstream.
Information used in this blog post has been supplied by doc-advice.com & medicalnewstoday.com.