Malaria is a life-threatening disease cause by parasites transmitted to people through bites of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. In total, there are 5 species of parasite that cause malaria in humans, two of which, P. falciparum and P. vivax, show to cause more harm than the others. A parasite will travel to a person’s liver first to grow and multiply. After the parasite has finished growing, it will travel to a person’s bloodstream, destroying their red blood cells.
Though the disease does not normally spread from person to person, it can be transmitted this way. The disease can be transmitted from a blood transfusion, or through sharing needles for drug use. Congenital malaria is transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn children.
When a person is diagnosed with malaria, they may experience several symptoms. The first symptoms a person may experience are a fever, headache, and chills. This can be hard for health care officials to diagnose because these symptoms are commonly linked to other illnesses. Children with severe malaria can develop many symptoms, including “severe anemia, respiratory distress in relation to metabolic acidosis, or cerebral malaria,” which includes seizures, unconsciousness, and confusion.
Malaria is seen to affect certain population groups more than others. Children represent most of the population infected with malaria, accounting for more than half of all malaria deaths worldwide. Other groups include infants, pregnant women, people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, and travelers.
In 2019, there were approximately 228 million cases of the disease worldwide, with 405,000 people dying from the disease. Malaria largely affects populations in sub-Saharan Africa, where most cases and deaths related to malaria occur. Other areas such as the South-East Asia Region, Eastern Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific have also been affected by the disease as well.
How Can Malaria Be Diagnosed?
Doctors can determine if a person has become infected through testing. By taking a sample of a person’s blood, the doctor will be able to look at a blood smear, using a specific stain to see if there is a parasite present.
How Can it be Treated?
Treatment may vary for those infected with malaria as there are many factors which determine the best form of treatment. These factors include the specific species of parasite seen in one’s blood stream, the severity of the symptoms a person is experiencing, as well as the area where the person was infected. Antibiotics are the most common form of treatment prescribed to those infected.
Due to prevention, awareness, and control measures, there has been a decrease in the amount of deaths from the disease. Governments have been stepping up with funding for malaria control and elimination.
Clinical trials are being hosted to help bring the malaria vaccine to the world. While there is no FDA approved vaccine, researchers and scientists have over 20 vaccines currently being tested, with one vaccine, RTS S/ASO1, showing great promise to stop the spread. The vaccine is currently in phase 3 trials in seven countries in sub-Sahara Africa, with over 15,000 children taking part in the trial.
By: Ashley Pure