Malaria is a vector-borne disease. The infection spread by protozoan parasites, commonly mosquitoes, claims over a million lives each year. The disease is recognized as a major public health problem. There are five parasite genus Plasmodium species, that foist the infection on humans. However, the infections caused by Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae, and Plasmodium knowlesi are not so serious in nature. The Plasmodium falciparum parasite-induced infection can be life-threatening.

How the Malady was Born(e)

Research reveals that malarial protozoa are a human pathogen, since the birth of the species. The earliest records of the epidemic date back to 2700 BC, in China. The disease got its name from the Medieval Italian term 'malaaria', which translates to 'bad air'. Throughout the history, it has also been referred to as 'ague' and 'marsh fever'. In 1880, a French army doctor, Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran observed the parasites for the first time. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1907 for this discovery. It was the Italian scientists Ettore Marchiafava and Angelo Celli, who coined the term 'Plasmodium', to refer to the genus. Sir Ronald Ross of Britain received the 1902 Nobel Prize in Medicine on proving the transmission of malaria by mosquitoes in 1898. The quinine rich bark of the cinchona tree was isolated and commercially distributed by Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Bienaimé Caventou as a remedy for the infection, in 1820.

Essential Facts

It usually affects children under the age of 5, pregnant women, and those with weak immune system. The disease is commonly associated with poverty, unhealthy living conditions, and economically backward regions of the world. HIV, TB, and malaria, each contribute to the spread of the other. This is basically the result of the 'viral load' associated with the malady and the weakened immunity caused by the other two maladies.

Cold and rigor continue to be the most preponderant symptoms. The condition is characterized by hemoglobinuria, retinal damage, and convulsions in serious cases. The consistent fever causes intracranial pressure, abnormal posturing, and cognitive impairment. Cerebral malaria is known to cause neurologic damage, retinal whitening, and even death, if untreated. Internally, the infection manifests in the form of splenomegaly or an enlarged spleen, hepatomegaly or an enlarged liver, and hypoglycemia.

Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

The microscopic parasites are transmitted from one human being to another by the female Anopheles mosquito. They thrive within the red blood cells. Common symptoms, include, anemia, shortness of breath, fever, ague, nausea, and in severe cases, delirium or coma. If neglected, the condition could even culminate in death. It is diagnosed with the help of blood smear from a K1 strain or Giemsa stain. Clinical predictors such as rectal temperature, splenomegaly, and nail bed pallor are also used at times. Insect repellents and mosquito nets are the common preventive measures adopted as preventive measures. The Anopheles mosquito thrives and breeds in stagnant water. Hence, it is very important to drain stagnant water in and around dwellings. The vaccines and preventive drugs are administered to reduce the risk of infection. The treatment options include prophylactic and antimalarial drugs, like quinine.

This illness is believed to have generated the greatest pressure on the human genome. The increased levels of morbidity and mortality caused by the malady in question are a global concern today. Research reveals that the malaria parasite is associated with gene mutations responsible for the onslaught of sickle-cell disease, thalassemia, and increased production of Duffy antigens and Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase enzyme.