Malaria is an infectious disease transmitted by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. Symptoms of malaria include chills, pain, fever, and sweating. Though mild cases of malaria can be treated with oral medication, severe cases require intravenous drug treatment and fluids.
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Malaria is a disease caused by Plasmodium spp. parasites that infect about
154 to 289 million people per year, resulting in approximately 660,000 deaths
Symptoms of malaria include recurrent cycles (every one to three
days) of fever, chills, muscle aches, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and jaundice.
Anopheles mosquitoes transmit the parasites to humans when they bite. The
parasites undergo a complicated life cycle in both mosquitoes and humans. The
cycle repeats when the mosquitoes take a blood meal from a human who is
contaminated with mature parasites.
Africa, Asia, and Central and South
America are the areas with high numbers of malarial infections.
period for malaria symptoms is about one to three weeks but may be extended to
eight to 10 months after the initial infected mosquito bites occur. Some people
may have dormant parasites that may get reactivated years after the initial
Malaria is diagnosed by the patient's history of recurrent symptoms
and the identification of the parasites in the blood.
Malaria is usually
treated by using combinations of two or more anti-parasite drugs. More serious
infections are treated with intravenous antiparasitic drugs in the hospital.
Infants, children, and pregnant females, along with immune-suppressed patients
are at higher risk for worse outcomes when infected with malaria parasites.
reduce the chance of getting malaria, people should avoid malaria-endemic areas
of the world, use mosquito repellents, cover exposed skin, and use mosquito
netting covered areas when sleeping.
The prognosis for the majority of malaria
patients is good. Most recover with no problems unless infected with P. falciparum or P. knowlesi, which may have fair to poor outcomes unless treated
immediately. Infants, children under 5 years of age, pregnant females, and those
with suppressed immune systems frequently have a fair to poor prognosis unless
effectively treated early in the infection.
Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR on 10/11/2013
Three main factors determine treatments: the infecting species of Plasmodium parasite, the clinical situation of the patient (for
example, adult, child, or pregnant female with either mild or severe malaria), and the drug susceptibility of the infecting parasites. Drug susceptibility is determined by the geographic area where the infection was acquired. Different areas of the world have malaria types that are resistant to certain medications. The correct drugs for each type of malaria must be prescribed by a doctor who is familiar with malaria treatment protocols. Since people infected with
P. falciparum malaria can die (often because of delayed treatment), immediate treatment for
P. falciparum malaria is necessary.