Malaria – a name that has become more than familiar but a disease poorly understood by most. The name Malaria has originated from the Latin words ‘mal’ and ‘aria’ translating to ‘bad or evil air’ as it was thought to be contracted from breathing the foul air in swamps and marshes. The correlation between the mosquitoes and malaria was made in 1897 when Dr. Ronald Ross discovered the gut of the female Anopheles mosquito harbored the causative parasite ‘Plasmodium’.
Today Malaria as a killer disease is second after tuberculosis in its impact on world health. It is estimated to kill one child every minute everyday – so by the time you finish reading this article close to 6 malaria infected children would have died.
Cause of Malaria:
Malaria is caused by a single-celled parasite from the genus Plasmodium transmitted by the female anopheles mosquito (the vector). Four species of Plasmodium commonly infect humans & each one produces a somewhat different pattern of symptoms.
- Plasmodium falciparum
- Plasmodium vivax
- Plasmodium malariae
- Plasmodium ovale
How is it Transmitted
- By the bites of the female anopheles mosquito
- Blood transfusion with contaminated blood & blood products
- From mother to child during pregnancy and/or labor causing congenital Malaria
The disease manifestation:
Malaria typically produces a series of recurrent attacks, or paroxysms, each of which has three stages— chills, followed by fever, and then sweating. Along with chills, the person is likely to have headache, malaise, fatigue, and muscular pains, and occasionally nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Within an hour or two, the body temperature rises, and the skin feels hot and dry. Then, as the body temperature falls, a drenching sweat begins.
The symptoms first appear in about 10 to 16 days after the infectious mosquito bite. These are due to rupture of infected Red Blood Cells. When many RBCs are infected and break at the same time, malaria attacks can recur at regular time periods. A person with P. falciparum malaria, however, is likely to feel miserable even between attacks and, without treatment, may die from a complication –most commonly, cerebral malaria.
Quotidian: symptoms everyday
Tertian: symptoms recurring every 2nd day
Quartan: symptoms recurring every 3 days
The symptom paroxysms correspond with the time at which parasites burst out of the patients’ red blood cells after their maturation phase within the cell.
Blood smears taken from a finger prick are microscopically studied to confirm the diagnosis. Rapid Diagnostic tests by Malaria dipstick test can detect minor infection loads is time saving easy to do.
QUININE – The wonder drug
- Its usage was known to exist before malaria
- Chloroquineis the mainstay of Malaria treatment. However in some cases cholorquine resistance is present and use of newer drugs are warranted
- Anti larval/ anti mosquito chemical treatment
- Draining puddles, swamps &other stagnant water bodies
- Chloroquinecommonly used
- In resistant cases, newer drugs like mefloquine frequently needed