Malaria: Definition, Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Malaria is a deadly disease spread by mosquitoes. Symptoms include fever, chills, and headaches. Treatment usually involves antimalarial drugs. Five types of plasmodium parasite can cause malaria in humans.when an infected Anopheles mosquito bites a person, the parasites multiply in the liver and then destroy red blood cells. Early symptoms include a fever, and if not treated, the disease can affect organs and lead to death. In some places, early diagnosis can help treat and control malaria. However, many countries don’t have the resources for effective screening. In 2020, there were about 241 million cases and 627,000 deaths worldwide. Malaria is now rare in the United States, with about  2,000 cases each year, mostly among people returning from areas where malaria is common. However, a 2021 study suggests that climate change could increase cases in the U.S. In 2021, the first malaria vaccine, called RTS,S (Mosquirix), was approved by the world Health Organization (WHO). However, it is only for children living in certain parts of Africa, not for travelers. For travelers, there are pills available to help prevent infection. For more research you can also visit the World Health Organization.

What is Malaria?

 It is a life- threatening disease. It’s usually spread by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. These mosquitoes carry the plasmodium parasite. When one bites you, the parasite enters your bloodstream. Once inside your body, the parasites travel to the liver and grow. After several days, they move into the bloodstream and start infecting red blood cells. Within 48 to 72 hours, the parasites inside the red blood cells multiply, making the infected cells burst open.  The parasites keep infecting red blood cells, causing symptoms that come in cycles of two to three days. Malaria is common in tropical and subtropical areas where the parasites can survive. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that in 2016, there were an estimated 216 million cases of malaria in 91 countries. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report about 1,700 cases of malaria each year. Most of these cases happen in people who travel to countries where it is common.

What are the Types of Malaria?

Several types of plasmodium can cause it in humans, including:

Plasmodium Falciparum (p. falciparum):

This type causes the most severe form of it. It multiplies quickly in your blood and can cause anemia from serious blood loss and blockages in your small blood vessels. If it blocks blood vessels in your brain, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called cerebral malaria. This type is common worldwide in tropical and subtropical areas, especially in Africa.

Plasmodium Vivax (P. vivax):

This type can live in your liver and cause a relapse months or years after you were bitten by an infected mosquito. It’s mostly found in Asia, Latin America, and some parts of Africa.

Plasmodium Ovale (P. ovale):

This type is similar to P. Vivax but can’t infect people with a specific blood group called the Duffy blood group. It’s mostly found in Africa, especially west Africa, and the islands of the western Pacific.

Plasmodium Malaria (P. malaria):

If untreated, this type can cause a long-lasting infection that can last a lifetime. In some people, it can cause a serious problem where you lose a lot of protein in your urine. This type is found all over the world.

Plasmodium Knowlesi (P. knowlesi):

This type mostly infects monkeys but can also infect humans. It has a short, 24-hour cycle, so it can become a severe infection quickly, and sometimes the infected person can die. This type is found throughout southeast Asia.

What are the Causes of Malaria?

The person can get it, if they are bitten by an infected mosquito. The mosquito must carry a parasite called plasmodium. There are many types of plasmodium, but only five can cause malaria in humans. Only bites from female Anopheles mosquitoes can spread it to humans. When the mosquito bites a person, the parasites enter the blood. It moves to the liver and starts multiplying. The liver releases new malaria parasites back into the bloodstream, where they infect red blood cells and multiply more. Some parasites stay in the liver and don’t enter the blood until later, causing the infection to come back. As the parasites multiply, symptoms start to show, usually 7-30 days after infection, depending on the type of plasmodium. If a person is infected after taking antimalarial drugs, symptoms may take longer to appear, sometimes weeks or months. An uninfected mosquito can also get the parasites when it bites someone with it, starting the cycle again.

What are the Symptoms of Malaria?

It is a disease that usually causes fever, chills, and headaches. It can become severe or even life-threatening. The way it affects people can vary a lot. Some people have mild symptoms or none at all, but others can become very sick.

Uncomplicated Malaria:

Uncomplicated malaria happens when a person has symptoms but no severe infection or major organ problems. without treatment, or if someone has low immunity, it can turn into severe it. Symptoms can look like the flu and usually last 6-10 hours, happening  every other day. Some types of the parasite might have a longer cycle or cause mixed symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever and chills
  • sweating
  • Headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Weakness
  • Enlarged liver
  • Mild jaundice, which makes the eyes look yellow
  • Faster breathing
  • General feeling of being unwell

In places where it is rare, a doctor might mistake it for the flu. If someone has been to an area with malaria and gets these symptoms, they should tell their doctor about their trip.

Fever Cycle:

The Classic malaria fever cycle usually lasts 6-10 hours and happens every other day. It includes:

  • Chills and shivering
  • Fever, headaches, and vomiting, sometimes with seizures in young children
  • Sweating
  • Return to normal temperature, but with tiredness

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says this is rare. With some types of plasmodium, attacks may happen every third day.

Severe Malaria:

In some cases, it can get worse and affect important body organs. When this happens, malaria parasites have infected more than 5% of the red blood cells. Symptoms include:

  • Severe anemia
  • Blood in the urine
  • Changes in blood clotting
  • Impaired consciousness
  • Changes in behavior
  • High acidity in the blood and body fluids
  • Seizures
  • Coma

Severe malaria is a life-threatening medical emergency.

What are the Risk Factors of Malaria?

Anyone can get it, but about 3.3 billion people, or half of the world’s population, are at risk. Most people who get infected live in countries where it is common. However, people from countries with little or no malaria can still get infected when they travel to places where malaria exists. It is most common in warm areas, such as:

  • Africa, especially south of the sahara desert
  • South and Southeast Asia
  • Areas around the eastern Mediterranean, from Turkey to northern Africa and eastward to Iran
  • Central and South America
  • Australia, New Zealand, and other islands in the western pacific

If you live in a place with high rates, you might become partially immune. This means your symptoms might not be as serious if you get it. But if you move to a place with less of it, your immunity can decrease.

Some people have a higher risk of getting a serious case of it. These include:

  • Children and babies
  • People with HIV/AIDS
  • pregnant people
  • Travelers from areas without it

What is the Diagnosis of Malaria?

Early diagnosis is crucial for recovery from it. People can still get infected even after taking antimalarial drugs. In such cases, symptoms can appear up to a year after the infection. Anyone with symptoms that might suggest it should see a doctor as soon as possible. It’s important to inform the healthcare professional if they have been in an area where it is present within the past 12 months. A doctor will inquire about the person’s symptoms and travel history. If malaria is suspected, they will order several blood tests, including:

  • A Complete blood count to check for anemia.
  • Rapid diagnostic testing (RDT) for parasites, Which can provide results in 2-15 minutes.
  • Microscopic examination of blood cells.
  • RDT tests are available as a kit but only through laboratories

What is the Treatment of Malaria?

With early treatment, most people with it will make a full recovery. So treatment for individuals with the disease includes:

  • Medication to eliminate the parasite from the bloodstream
  • Supportive care
  • Hospitalization for those with severe symptoms
  • Intensive care, in some cases
  • The main antimalarial drugs are:
  • Chloroquine
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Primaquine
  • Artemisinin-based therapy
  • Atovaquone-proguanil

The treatment period usually lasts about 2 days. However, the type of medication and length of treatment may vary depending on:

  • The type of plasmodium that caused the malaria
  • The severity of the symptoms
  • Where the person contracted malaria
  • Whether they took antimalarial drugs before
  • If the person is pregnant
  • Additionally, people who develop complications may need a combination of medications.

What are the Complications of Malaria?

Possible complications of it include:

  • Liver disease, which can lead to jaundice
  • Kidney failure
  • Unusually low blood glucose
  • Swelling and rupturing of the spleen
  • Shock, which includes a sudden fall in high blood pressure
  • Pulmonary edema, where fluid builds up in the lungs
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome, which  affects breathing
  • Dehydration
  • Coma
  • Cerebral malaria (brain damage caused by swelling)
  • Pulmonary edema (fluid buildup in the lungs)
  • Liver, kidney, and spleen failure
  • Anemia (when you lose too many red blood cells)
  • Very low blood sugar

You can get it again after you’ve had it. Some types of the parasite cause a milder illness that can last a long time And come back in the future.

What is the Prevention of Malaria?

There’s no vaccine available to prevent it. If you’re traveling to or live in an area where it is common, talk to your doctor. They may prescribe medication to prevent the disease. These medications are the same as those used to treat malaria and should be taken before, during, and after your trip. Discuss long-term prevention with your doctor if you live in an area where malaria is common. Sleeping under a mosquito net can help prevent mosquito bites. You can also protect yourself by covering  your skin or using bug sprays containing DEET. If you’re   unsure whether malaria is common in your area, you can check the CDC’s up-to-date map of where malaria can be found.

What is the Vaccination of Malaria?

A vaccine is now available to prevent malaria, but it’s not for travelers. It’s approved for children who live in moderate-to-high risk areas in Sub-Saharan Africa, where plasmodium falciparum infection is common. So far, health experts have given over 2.3 million doses, and it has a good safety record. However, the vaccine isn’t 100% effective. For children under 5 years old, it:

  • Provides 30% protection from severe malaria after four doses
  • Is likely to save one life among every 200 vaccinated children
  • Can reduce the risk of an episode by 40%

Where is Malaria Most Common?

Malaria isn’t common in the U.S., but it affects people in 87 countries worldwide, mainly in:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Southeast Asia
  • South America

In these areas, factors that increase the risk of malaria include:

  • Warm climate
  • Altitude (risk may be lower at high altitude
  • Urbanization and high population density
  • Travel between countries or between cities and rural areas
  • Urban agriculture
  • Open water sources like swampy land open ditches and leaky water pipes
  • Type of plasmodium present in local mosquitoes
  • Health education and access to prevention treatment methods
  • The CDC provides a list of countries and their malaria risk, along with advice on preventive tablets
  • People with a higher risk of malaria include:
  • Young children
  • Pregnant women, especially for the first or second time
  • Those from areas where malaria is uncommon

Travelers should:

  • Know the overall malaria risk in the area they’re visiting
  • Check the risk for the exact location, season, travel styles, and their health status
  • Get advice on the best medication to prevent infection
  • Get antimalarial drugs in advance and be aware of symptoms
  • Take precautions to avoid mosquito bites while traveling
  • Seek medical advice if they develop symptoms after traveling

Symptoms can appear up to a year after leaving an area where malaria is common. Anyone with symptoms should seek medical help.


How do you control malaria infection?

  • Put mosquito repellent with DEET (diethyltoluamide) on your skin
  • Cover beds with mosquito nets
  • Install screens on window and doors
  • Treat clothes, mosquito’s nets, tents, sleeping bags, and other fabrics with an insect repellent called permethrin

Can malaria cause death?

If not treated, P.falciparum malaria can become very serious and cause death within 24 hours.

Which fruit is best for malaria?

Fresh fruits and vegetables are very beneficial for malaria patients. Studies show that fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins C, such as beetroot, carrot, papaya, sweet lime, grapes, berries, lemon, and orange, help to detoxify and boost the immune system of malaria patients.

What is the best drink for malaria?

To deal with this situation, you should drink glucose water, fresh fruit juices, coconut water, a lemon sorbet made with salt, sugar and water, and electrolyte. When drinking water, make sure it is boiled or sterilized.

What to eat during malaria?

Increase protein intake, protein-rich foods include milk and dairy products, apple, avocados, nuts, (like cashews, almonds, walnuts), and meat (such as poultry and beef). Supplements with vitamin C. When you have malaria, you should eat fruits like oranges, tangerines, and grapefruits.

Can malaria be cured?

Only healthcare providers can diagnose and treat malaria. Prescription drugs available in the United States can cure malaria. See a healthcare provider if you feel sick and have recently been in an area where malaria is common.

Which antibiotics are best for malaria?

Chloroquine phosphate works against P.vivax, P.ovale, P. malariae, and drug-sensitive P.falciparum. It can be used to prevent malaria. It’s the preferred drug for preventing sensitive malaria.

What is the blood test for malaria?

A small blood sample from the patient is collected and put on the test card’s sample pad. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are not as sensitive as other lab tests. A blood smear microscopy test should always confirm both positive and negative RDT results in a patient suspected of having malaria.

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