Malaria is a life-threatening mosquito-borne blood disease. The parasites in mosquitos that spread malaria belong to the Plasmodium genus. Over 100 types of Plasmodium parasites can infect a variety of species. Different types replicate at different rates, changing how quickly the symptoms escalate, and the severity of the disease.
Five types of Plasmodium parasites can infect humans. These occur in different parts of the world. Some cause a more severe type of malaria than others. Once an infected mosquito bites a human, the parasites multiply in the host’s liver before infecting and destroying red blood cells.
You need to visit a medical doctor, whom may give this diagnosis when symptoms are present, but no symptoms occur that suggest severe infection or dysfunction of the vital organs. This form can become severe malaria without treatment, or if the host has poor or no immunity. Symptoms of uncomplicated malaria typically last 6 to 10 hours and recur every second day. Some strains of the parasite can have a longer cycle or cause mixed symptoms. As symptoms resemble those of flu, they may remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in areas where malaria is less common.
Here are the few symptoms from uncomplicated malaria:
- A sensation of cold with shivering
- Fever, headaches, and vomiting
- Seizures sometimes occur in younger people with the disease
- Sweats, followed by a return to normal temperature, with tiredness
In severe malaria, clinical or laboratory evidence shows signs of vital organ dysfunction. Here are the symptoms of severe malaria:
- Fever and chills
- Impaired consciousness
- Prostration, or adopting a prone position
- Multiple convulsions
- Deep breathing and respiratory distress
- Abnormal bleeding and signs of anemia
- Clinical jaundice and evidence of vital organ dysfunction
Treatment aims to eliminate the Plasmodium parasite from the bloodstream. Those without symptoms may be treated for infection to reduce the risk of disease transmission in the surrounding population. Artemisinin is derived from the plant Artemisia annua, better known as sweet wormwood. It rapidly reduces the concentration of Plasmodium parasites in the bloodstream. Practitioners often combine ACT with a partner drug. ACT aims to reduce the number of parasites within the first 3 days of infection, while the partner drugs eliminate the rest. Expanding access to ACT treatment worldwide has helped reduce the impact of malaria, but the disease is becoming increasingly resistant to the effects of ACT. In places where malaria is resistant to ACT, treatment must contain an effective partner drug. The WHO has warned that no alternatives to artemisinin are likely to become available for several years.