February 2, 2017

Malaria is a life threatening, mosquito-borne blood infection, classically characterized by periodic chills, rigors, and high fevers followed by profuse sweating, which occur at regular intervals of 48 to 72 hours.

Malaria is caused by microscopic organism called Plasmodium parasites. Four Plasmodium species (Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae) give disease in humans, and humans are their only relevant reservoir. The species of mosquito that carries the malaria parasites is the Anopheles mosquito.

These parasites enter the host’s bloodstream when bitten by an infected mosquito and then migrate to the liver where they multiply before returning back into the bloodstream to invade the red blood cells.

The parasites continue to multiply inside the red cells until they burst releasing large numbers of free parasites into the blood plasma causing the characteristic fever associated with the disease. This phase of the disease occurs in cycles of approximately 48 hours. The free parasites are then able to infect any mosquito that feeds on the host’s blood during this phase. The cycle then continues as the parasites multiply inside the mosquito and eventually invade its salivary glands.

Malaria is both preventable and treatable, and effective preventive and curative tools have been developed.


Mosquito transmission cycle


  • Uninfected mosquito – A mosquito becomes infected by feeding on a person who has malaria.
  • Transmission of parasite – If the person is bitten by this parasite.
  • In the liver – The parasites then travel to the liver — where some types can lie dormant for as long as a year.
  • Into the bloodstream – When the parasites mature, they leave the liver and infect the red blood cells. This is when people typically develop malaria symptoms.
  • On to the next person – If an uninfected mosquito bites a person at this point in the cycle, it will become infected with your malaria parasites and can spread them to the next person it bites.

Other modes of transmission

Because the parasites that cause malaria affect red blood cells, people can also catch malaria from exposures to infected blood, including –

  • From mother to unborn child
  • Through blood transfusions
  • By sharing needles used to inject drugs

Risk Factors

Anyone can get malaria. Most cases occur in people who live in countries with malaria transmission. People from countries with no malaria can become infected when they travel to countries with malaria or through a blood transfusion (although this is very rare). Also, an infected mother can transmit malaria to her infant before or during delivery.

The variety that causes the most lethal complications is most commonly found in –

  • African countries south of the Sahara Desert
  • The Asian subcontinent
  • Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea and Haiti

People at increased risk of serious disease include –

  • Young children and infants
  • Travelers coming from areas with no malaria
  • Pregnant women and their unborn children
  • Poverty, lack of knowledge, and little or no access to health care also contribute to malaria deaths worldwide.


Symptoms of malaria include fever and flu-like illness, including shaking chills, headache, muscle aches, and tiredness. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea may also occur. Malaria may cause anaemia and jaundice (yellow colouring of the skin and eyes) because of the loss of red blood cells. Infection with one type of malaria, P. falciparum, if not promptly treated, may cause kidney failure, seizures, mental confusion, coma, and death.

Symptoms include –

  • A slow rising fever that escalates to a rapid temperature rise and fall
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Shivering
  • Excessive sweating
  • Diarrhoea
  • Generally feeling unwell
  • Anaemia and associated symptoms.

For most people, symptoms begin 10 days to 4 weeks after infection, although a person may feel ill as early as 8 days or up to 1 year later. Two kinds of malaria, P. vivax and P. ovale, can relapse; some parasites can rest in the liver for several months up to 4 years after a person is bitten by an infected mosquito . When these parasites come out of hibernation and begin invading red blood cells, the person will become sick.

Malaria infection during pregnancy is associated with severe anaemia and other illness in the mother and contributes to low birth weight among newborn infants — one of the leading risk factors for infant mortality and sub-optimal growth and development.


In most cases, malaria deaths are related to one or more serious complications, including –

  • Cerebral malaria – If parasite-filled blood cells block small blood vessels to the brain (cerebral malaria), swelling of the brain or brain damage may occur. Cerebral malaria may cause coma.
  • Breathing problems – Accumulated fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) can make it difficult to breathe.
  • Organ failure – Malaria can cause the kidneys or liver to fail, or your spleen to rupture. Any of these conditions can be life-threatening.
  • Anemia – Malaria damages red blood cells, which can result in anemia.
  • Low blood sugar – Severe forms of malaria itself can cause low blood sugar, as can quinine — one of the most common medications used to combat malaria. Very low blood sugar can result in coma or death.


Anti-malarial medication is used both to treat and prevent malaria. The type and duration of drugs depends on the type of malaria, its severity and if the patient is pregnant.

Artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) is recommended by the WHO to treat uncomplicated malaria. Artemisinin is derived from the plant Artemisia annua, better known as sweet wormwood, and is known for its ability to reduce quickly the number of Plasmodium parasites in the bloodstream.

ACT is artemisinin combined with a partner drug. The role of artemisinin is to reduce the number of parasites within the first three days while the partner drugs eliminate the rest.

Self Help – Malaria can be prevented by taking several simple precautions. Awareness of the risk of malaria in high risk zones is the first step to preventing malaria. Mosquito bites can be prevented by using covered clothes and mosquito repellents. While travelling to a malaria endemic zone, antimalarial tablets may be prescribed to prevent contracting malaria. Immediate diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications and death.

Alternative Treatment

Vitamin A – The antioxidant effect of vitamin A may be needed to help boost the immune system to effectively fight off the parasite causing the malaria, which is deficient in people who are low in this nutrient (children especially).

Vitamin C – The potent antioxidant vitamin C provides a huge boost to help the immune system more effectively fight off any infection from any pathogen.

Vitamin E – The potent antioxidant vitamin E provides a huge boost to help the immune system more effectively fight off any infection from any pathogen.

Zinc – the very potent antioxidant mineral zinc help the immune system fight off infection and reduces recovery time from infections. A randomised, double blind study showed that zinc, in combination with vitamin A reduced not only symptoms of malaria, but also levels of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

Alpha-lipoic acid – Studies show that the potent antioxidant alpha-lipoic acid is beneficial because it provides a huge boost to the immune system to more effectively fight off any infection and that the parasite that causes malaria is killed by alpha-lipoic acid.

Quinine – The natural substance quinine is used to fight malaria infections and it has now been used to create medication specifically for fighting a malaria infection.

Annual wormwood – The Chinese herb Artemisia annua L. (annual wormwood) contains the anti-malarial substance artemisin, which studies show is effective at fighting malaria infection.

Peruvian bark – The bark of the tree Cinchona pubescens is the original source of quinine, the substance which is used to effectively treat malaria.

Reference –

Posted in A-Z-Search