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Plasmodium Parasite and Malaria

Malaria is a dangerous disease that threatens the lives of those who are infected. It is caused by five different parasitic species belonging to the family Plasmodium; the two most salient species are Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, (WHO, 2020)These parasites are transmitted through the bite of an insect known as a mosquito. There are over three thousand types of mosquitoes worldwide, but not all of these are vectors. The type of mosquito that is a vector, that is, that can spread the parasite to humans, is known as the female anopheles mosquito Anopheles quadrimaculatus, (WHO,2020).

Mosquitoes are blood-sucking insects; their nutrition comes from blood obtained through biting animals, which is especially instrumental to female mosquitoes’ production of eggs. The female anopheles mosquito gets the parasites from sucking infected blood from a person with the disease. The parasite rapidly multiplies once it is ingested by the mosquitoes and can survive in the body for a considerable amount of time. It then migrates to the salivary glands of the insect, where it is embedded until it is transferred to the body of humans through a bite. The parasites move along the bloodstream to the liver, where they lay dormant until maturity. Mature plasmodium parasites then leave the liver into the bloodstream, where they infect the red blood cells. When the red blood cells get infected, signs and symptoms of malaria begin to be exhibited, (CDC,2021).

There are other ways to transmit the disease, albeit their chances of occurrence are minimal. Since the disease manifests itself after the red blood cells are infected, any way the parasites can contact the blood is a possible means of transmission. These may include but are not limited to; transmission from mother to unborn child or during childbirth, through blood transfusion from an infected person, and the sharing of needles and sharp objects such as those used in injecting drugs, (Mayo Clinic, 2020).

In the prodromal stage, just after the red blood cells are infected and the parasites are replicating in the bloodstream, the signs and symptoms exhibited are generally unspecific. They are described as flulike symptoms and include; slight fever, headaches, body fatigue, muscle, and joint pains, weaned appetite, nausea, and lassitude, (Wiser, 2018). These symptoms are exhibited between five to seven days after infection, at the end of the incubation stage of the disease.

The prodromal symptoms are then succeeded by a series of attacks referred to as febrile attacks. Three distinct stages characterize these attacks, each manifesting through different signs. The first stage, the cold stage, is characterized by a feeling of intense cold, elevated temperatures, and bouts of shivering. It lasts about fifteen minutes to an hour. The hot stage follows this; the patient experiences intense heat and burning skin, throbbing headaches, and heightened fevers. It is the longest stage of the attacks and can last up to six hours. The final stage is the sweating stage, and it manifests through; heavy sweating, subsiding temperatures, and deep exhaustion, often leading to sleep. The sweating stage lasts for two to four hours, (Wiser, 2018).

In its initial stages, the prodromal and incubation stages, malaria is not lethal, and if diagnosed and treated on time, the patient is expected to make a full recovery. Failure to detect and treat the disease effectively at this stage leads to the progression to what is referred to as severe malaria. This progression results from the parasitic cells in the bloodstream spreading to various organs and their continuous replication throughout the body. Severe malaria manifests itself through the following symptoms; coma in cerebral malaria, metabolic acidosis, hypoglycemia, acute renal failure, and anemic symptoms, (Eske & White, 2021). Severe malaria is often fatal if measures are not taken on time.

The treatment of malaria is done by administering drugs to neutralize or kill the parasites and ease the effect of the symptoms on the patient’s body. The kind of drug administered is dependent on the type of plasmodium parasite in the body, the severity of the symptoms exhibited, and characteristics intrinsic to the patient, such as age and pregnancy state. The most common drug for malarial treatment is chloroquine phosphate, but its efficacy has been debunked as most parasites are resistant to it. For the species of parasites that are resistant to chloroquine, Artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) are used, (Mayo Clinic, 2020). These are combinations of artemisinin-based drugs that attack the parasites in different ways.

In addition to the typical symptoms used to detect and diagnose malaria, the disease may at times lead to the development of other health complications. The most common complications are anemia resulting from the destruction of red blood cells in the body and cerebral malaria, which arises when the parasites affect the brain, leading to permanent brain damage. Other complications arising from the disease are; jaundice resulting from failure in the liver, pulmonary edema, and respiratory difficulties. Malaria may also cause early complications in pregnant women, such as stillbirth, premature delivery, and miscarriage.

Malaria is a deadly disease; thus, it is better prevented than treated. There are four stages in the prevention cycle of the disease; awareness of the risk, bite prevention, antimalarial tablets, and swift diagnosis. Understanding risk incorporates the need to be aware of the high-risk areas one is exposed to, thereby enabling preparedness. Bite prevention includes the use of repellants and mosquito nets to avoid contact with mosquitoes. The final step is antimalarial tablets which should be taken when one is likely to get infected. Swift diagnosis reduces the risk of progression and spread to others, (CDC,2020).

Malaria has many direct and indirect impacts on the health of the community. It is a lethal disease that threatens the lives of members of society. Its high spreading rate means that once it infects a few people, the entire population within that radius is at risk of getting the disease.


CDC. (2021). CDC – Malaria – Diagnosis & Treatment (United States). Retrieved 25 October 2021, from

Mayo Clinic. (2021). Malaria – Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved 25 October 2021, from

White, C., & Eske, J. (2021). What are the 5 stages of infection?. Retrieved 25 October 2021, from

Wiser, M. (2021). Malaria. Retrieved 25 October 2021, from



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