What is Malaria? Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Malaria, malaria symptoms, Dr Lifesaving

If your mind is thinking and searching “What is Malaria?” Then let us help with it and answer you “What is Malaria?”

Malaria is derived from the Latin word “Malus aer” which means bad air. Malaria is a lethal disease caused by parasites that are transmitted to individuals through the bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Human malaria is mainly caused by four species of the protozoa genus are: Plasmodium Falciparum, Plasmodium Vivax, Plasmodium Ovale and Plasmodium Malaria.

P. falciparum (Plasmodium falciparum) are the species mainly responsible for fatalities in Malaria worldwide. P. vivax (Plasmodium vivax) is the most common form of relapsing malaria and it is hardly lethal. P. ovale (Plasmodium ovale) is less common nonfatal relapsing malaria. P. malaria (Plasmodium malaria) is also less common and mild type of malaria. It is mainly transmitted due to infected blood transfusion from donor.

According to WHO, in 2015, there were approximately 3.2 billion people at risk of malaria. These numbers are nearly half of the world’s population. In 2015, there were 214 million cases of malaria and 438 000 deaths. (Source)

Malaria symptoms you should know

Malaria symptoms appear 7 days or more (usually 10–15 days) after the infective mosquito bite. Common symptoms of malaria are:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Myalgias

These common symptoms suggests of mild malaria. And if it is failed to diagnose and not treated within 24 hours, P. falciparum malaria can progress to severe form of malaria, often leading to death. Many people shows malaria symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. These malaria symptoms are mainly GI (Gastro-intestinal) symptoms.

Sever form of Malaria shows:

  • Hypoglycemia (<40 mg/dl)
  • Raised hepatic transaminases (> 3 times normal)
  • Creatinine (> 3 times normal)
  • Anenia (<21%)
  • Changed mental status
  • Respiratory distress
  • Seizures

Why malaria may be lethal?

Malaria lethality is mainly associated with P. falciparum. P. falciparum attacks both young and aging red blood cells. Here it involves all ages of red blood cells. Whereas P. vivax & P. ovale attack only young blood cells and P. malaria attack only aging red blood cells. In addition to this, P. falciparum also binds uninfected red blood cells to infected red blood cells along with obstruction and plugging of microvasculature leads to cessation of local blood flow causing cell death. That’s the reason P. falciparum is more lethal compared to all.

Malaria Diagnosis

Malaria is diagnosed primarily based on the clinical symptoms of malaria. Your doctor will look after your medical history, your recent travel history. He or she will also look after the GI (Gastro-intestinal) symptoms. To evaluate the severity of malaria, doctor may ask for complete blood count test.

Malaria Treatment

Malaria is a life- threatening disease and must be treated as early as possible. It is best advice to get hospitalized for better cure and treatment. Depending on the severity, doctor choose malaria treatment plan. In mild cases, doctor will prescribe medications. In sever form of malaria, parenteral quinidine gluconate is the drug of choice.

Malaria Prevention

Some preventive measures for malaria include:

WHO recommends use of Insecticide-treated mosquito nets are the preferred form of insecticide-treated mosquito nets (ITNs). This net must be used every night and check whether net is properly fitted and maintained (Source).

Indoor residual spraying (IRS) with insecticides is a commanding way to quickly diminish malaria transmission. This spraying is effective for 3–6 months, based on the insecticide formulation used and the type of surface on which it is sprayed (Source).

Use of Antimalarial medicines can also be used to prevent malaria.

According to WHO, for travellers, malaria can be prevented by chemoprophylaxis, which suppresses the blood stage of malaria infections, thereby preventing malaria disease (Source). Most commonly used such drugs are Mefloquine, Doxycycline, Chloroquine and Primaquine.

For pregnant women living in transmission areas, WHO recommends intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, at each scheduled antenatal visit after the first trimester (Source).

Similarly, for infants living in high-transmission areas of Africa, 3 doses of intermittent preventive treatment with sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine are recommended, delivered alongside routine vaccinations.