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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Facts about Malaria Parasites

Written by: Azoma Chikwe

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Malaria is caused by a parasite Plasmodium that is passed from one human to another by the bite of the female anopheles mosquitoes. After infection, the parasite travel through the bloodstream to the liver, where they mature and are released. The parasites enter the bloodstream and infect red blood cells.

There are 3 factors that attract mosquitoes;
1 - High level of Carbon dioxide
2 - High relative humidity
3 - Heat or warm environment

And all these factors can be generated by man. You will find that all these factors are very common in the tropics, so they are very good breeding grounds.

The parasite multiply inside the red blood cells, which then break open within 48 to 72 hours, infecting more red blood cells. The first symptoms usually occur 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, though they can appear as early as 8 days or as long as a year after infection. The symptoms occur in cycles of 48 to 72 hours.

Most symptoms are caused by the release of the parasites into the bloodstream. Anemia resulting from the destruction of the red blood cells. Large amounts of free haemoglobin being released into circulation after red blood cells break open.

Malaria can also be transmitted from a mother to her unborn baby [congenitally] and by blood transfusions. The disease is a major health problem in much of the tropics and subtropics. It is estimated that there are 300 – 500 million cases of malaria each year, and more than 1 million people die from it. It presents a major disease hazard for travelers to warm climates.

In some parts of the world, mosquitoes that carry malaria have developed resistance to insecticides. In addition, the parasites have developed resistance to some antibiotics. These conditions have led to difficulty in controlling both the rate of infection and spread of this disease.

Recently developed Immunity by malaria parasites
Most people who live in areas where malaria is common have got some immunity to the disease. Visitors will not have such immunity, and should take preventive medications.

It is important to see your health care provider well before your trip, because treatment may need to begin as long as two weeks before you travel to the area, and continue for a month after you leave the area. In 2006, it was reported that most travelers from the United States who contracted malaria failed to make the right precautions.

The types of anti –malaria medications prescribed will depend on the area you visit. Travelers to South America, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Asia, and the South pacific should take antimalarial for prevention following doctor’s prescription.

Even pregnant women should take preventive medications because the risk to the foetus from the medication is less that the risk of catching this infection.
People who are talking antimalarial medications my still become infected. Avoid mosquito bites by wearing protective clothing over the arms and legs, using screens on windows, and using insect repellant.

Chloroquine has been the drug of choice for protecting against malaria. But because of resistance, it is now only suggested for use in areas where Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium oval, and Plasmodium malariae are present. Plasmodium falciparum is becoming increasingly resistant to anti – malaria medications.

Many years of a single drug [monotherapy] for treatment of malaria around the world has led to resistance of the malaria parasite to these drugs once considered effective against them. 

As a result, the World Health Organization [WHO] recommended a change to the use of a combination of drugs – artemisinin or its derivatives and one or more active ingredients. The umbrella term for these combination therapies is ACT, Artemisinin based Combination Therapy.


For travelers going to areas where falciparum malaria is known to occur, there are several options for malaria prevention, including use of Artemisinin based Combination Therapy [ACT].

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