Your Brief Mini-Guide to Malaria

Your Brief Mini-Guide to Malaria

Your Brief Mini-Guide to Malaria


Malaria is a severe infection that gets transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito.

The infectious pathogen is a parasite that belongs to the Plasmodium species. Once the parasites are inside your body, they first travel to the liver, where they mature. After that, the journey to infect red blood cells begins.

The duration of every cycle lasts between 48 and 72 hours, where red blood cells burst, leading to the classic symptoms of malaria.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria affected 216 million people in 2016.

In this article, we will address the classic signs and symptoms of malaria, what causes it, and how we can treat it.

Causes of malaria

Malaria is the direct result of a parasite known as Plasmodium, which gets transmitted after being bit by an infected mosquito.

There are four types of malaria parasites that infect humans:

  • Plasmodium vivax
  • ovale
  • malariae
  • falciparum

By far, P. falciparum causes the vast majority of severe cases and increases the risk of death.

Besides mosquito bites, malaria can be transmitted through the following methods:

  • Organ transplantation
  • Blood transfusion
  • The common use of needles and syringes

Signs and symptoms of malaria

The symptoms of malaria become clinically apparent within 10–28 days following the infection. However, many infected individuals may not develop any symptoms for several months.

Common symptoms of malaria include:

  • Chills
  • High fever
  • Profuse sweating
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Muscle aches
  • Convulsions
  • Coma
  • Bloody stools
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain

Most death cases of malaria are the result of hemodynamic instability, meaning that the heart is no longer able to pump blood due to the constant bursting of red blood cells, which starve the cardiac muscle cells.

Additionally, poor blood perfusion to the brain may lead to irreversible complications and long-lasting coma.

Treatment of malaria

The treatment of malaria is provided in a hospital setting, where patients can receive intravenous medications.

If P. falciparum is the causative agent, the symptoms are typically severe, and in some cases, life-threatening.

Similar to other infections, some cases of malaria resist treatments, which require changing the dosage or medications.

Even more important than treatment, malaria prevention is crucial to lower the number of infected cases and manage the distribution of antimalarial drugs.

In developed countries, any tourist who wants to visit a country with an active malaria epidemic, he/she has to take prophylactic therapy that consists of the daily/weekly intake of drugs, such as hydroxychloroquine.

Takeaway message

Malaria is responsible for millions of deaths every year, especially in underdeveloped countries located in Africa, South America, and Southeast Asia.

Thanks to the efforts of global health organizations, we are seeing a progressive improvement in the diagnosis and management of malaria cases. However, more attention should be paid to preventive measures.

We hope that this article explained the main concepts of malaria.