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What is Malaria? Print E-mail
Written by Mike Cohen   
Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Malaria is an infection marked by fever and shaking chills. Four different species of the Plasmodium parasite cause malaria.

What is going on in the body?

Malaria occurs mainly in the tropical areas of the world, including Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Humans acquire malaria through the bite of a mosquito. There are 4 species of Plasmodium that cause infection.

When an infected mosquito bites a person, the parasite travels through the bloodstream to the liver. The parasite multiplies in the liver. Then it goes back into the bloodstream and attacks the red blood cells. As the red blood cells are destroyed, symptoms begin in the body.

What are the causes and risks of the infection?
The Plasmodium parasite causes infection. The bite of the anopheles mosquito transmits the parasite from person to person. When a mosquito bites a person who has malaria, the parasite multiplies in the mosquito. If the mosquito then bites another person, it can inject the parasite into another person. The infection can also be spread from an infected pregnant woman to the fetus across the placenta.

Malaria | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring | Attribution

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What are the treatments for the infection?

Antimalarial medications or antibiotics may be used to treat malaria. The choice of antibiotic depends on the following factors:
- the species of malaria, and whether it is likely to be resistant to medications
- the age of the infected person
- the extent of symptoms

Medications commonly used to treat malaria include:
- quinine sulfate
- a combination of atovaquone and proguanil
- mefloquine

Hospitalization and intravenous medications may also be necessary.

What are the side effects of the treatments?
Medications used to treat malaria may cause stomach upset or allergic reactions.

What happens after treatment for the infection?
For mild symptoms, bed rest, adequate nutrition, and medications may be enough. Recovery from more serious complications of malaria may take more time.

How is the infection monitored?
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare provider.


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