Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Researchers map incidence of malaria in pregnancy in Brazil

A survey of malaria among pregnant women in Brazil by researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP) has been published in Lancet Regional Health—Americas. According to the researchers, the study is the first to provide ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

What's new in fight against malaria?

Malaria has plagued human populations for millennia. Caused by species of Plasmodium parasites, which spread to, and between, humans through the bite of Anopheles mosquitos, malaria triggers symptoms ranging from fever and ...

Vaccination

WHO moves to roll out first malaria vaccine in Africa

As the World Health Organization announces the next step in its rollout of the world's first authorized malaria vaccine in three African countries, concerns about its value have come from an unlikely source: the Bill and ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

Rollout of world's first malaria jab gathers pace

The world's first malaria vaccine will soon be available across sub-Saharan Africa, according to PATH, partners of the vaccine developers, as positive results from the pioneering jab pile up.

Medical research

Scientists closer to outsmarting malaria parasites

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered why malaria parasites are vulnerable to some drug therapies but resistant to others, offering scientists another piece of the puzzle in the global ...

Diseases, Conditions, Syndromes

New discovery to improve malaria elimination strategies

WEHI researchers have made a crucial discovery about how asymptomatic malaria infections impact the body, informing potential strategies to control transmission and improve treatment outcomes.

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Malaria

Malaria is a vector-borne infectious disease caused by protozoan parasites. It is widespread in tropical and subtropical regions, including parts of the Americas, Asia, and Africa. Each year, there are approximately 350–500 million cases of malaria, killing between one and three million people, the majority of whom are young children in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ninety percent of malaria-related deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Malaria is commonly associated with poverty, but is also a cause of poverty and a major hindrance to economic development.

Malaria is one of the most common infectious diseases and an enormous public health problem. The disease is caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Five species of the plasmodium parasite can infect humans; the most serious forms of the disease are caused by Plasmodium falciparum. Malaria caused by Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae causes milder disease in humans that is not generally fatal. A fifth species, Plasmodium knowlesi, causes malaria in macaques but can also infect humans. This group of human-pathogenic Plasmodium species is usually referred to as malaria parasites.

Usually, people get malaria by being bitten by an infective female Anopheles mosquito. Only Anopheles mosquitoes can transmit malaria, and they must have been infected through a previous blood meal taken on an infected person. When a mosquito bites an infected person, a small amount of blood is taken, which contains microscopic malaria parasites. About one week later, when the mosquito takes its next blood meal, these parasites mix with the mosquito's saliva and are injected into the person being bitten. The parasites multiply within red blood cells, causing symptoms that include symptoms of anemia (light-headedness, shortness of breath, tachycardia, etc.), as well as other general symptoms such as fever, chills, nausea, flu-like illness, and, in severe cases, coma, and death. Malaria transmission can be reduced by preventing mosquito bites with mosquito nets and insect repellents, or by mosquito control measures such as spraying insecticides inside houses and draining standing water where mosquitoes lay their eggs. Work has been done on malaria vaccines with limited success and more exotic controls, such as genetic manipulation of mosquitoes to make them resistant to the parasite have also been considered.

Although some are under development, no vaccine is currently available for malaria that provides a high level of protection; preventive drugs must be taken continuously to reduce the risk of infection. These prophylactic drug treatments are often too expensive for most people living in endemic areas. Most adults from endemic areas have a degree of long-term infection, which tends to recur, and also possess partial immunity (resistance); the resistance reduces with time, and such adults may become susceptible to severe malaria if they have spent a significant amount of time in non-endemic areas. They are strongly recommended to take full precautions if they return to an endemic area. Malaria infections are treated through the use of antimalarial drugs, such as quinine or artemisinin derivatives. However, parasites have evolved to be resistant to many of these drugs. Therefore, in some areas of the world, only a few drugs remain as effective treatments for malaria.

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