Malaria (cont.)

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How is malaria transmitted?

The life cycle of the malaria parasite (Plasmodium) is complicated and involves two hosts, humans and Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease is transmitted to humans when an infected Anopheles mosquito bites a person and injects the malaria parasites (sporozoites) into the blood.

Sporozoites travel through the bloodstream to the liver, mature, and eventually infect the human red blood cells. While in red blood cells, the parasites again develop until a mosquito takes a blood meal from an infected human and ingests human red blood cells containing the parasites. Then the parasites reach the Anopheles mosquito's stomach and eventually invade the mosquito salivary glands. When an Anopheles mosquito bites a human, these sporozoites complete and repeat the complex Plasmodium life cycle. P. ovale and P. vivax can further complicate the cycle by producing dormant stages (hypnozoites) that may not develop for weeks to years. Malaria is not contagious person to person. Malaria is transmitted to people by mosquitoes.

Where is malaria a particular problem?

Malaria is a particular problem and a major one in areas of Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Unless precautions are taken, anyone living in or traveling to a country where malaria is present can get the disease. Malaria occurs in about 100 countries; approximately 40% of the world population is at risk for contracting malaria. To get information on countries that have current malaria infection problems, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has a constantly updated web site (http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/travelers/
country_table/a.html
) that lists the problem areas in detail.

HIV (AIDS) and malaria co-infection is a significant problem across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Research suggests that malaria and HIV co-infection can lead to worse clinical outcomes in patients. It seems that co-infections enhance the disease process of both pathogens.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/11/2013

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