What are the Effects of Malaria?

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  • Written By: Niki Foster
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 10 August 2019
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Malaria is an infectious disease caused by protist parasites of the genus Plasmodium. It is carried by mosquitoes and transmitted through their bite. The effects of malaria on affected humans differ according to the Plasmodium species involved. Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe effects of malaria and has the highest rate of mortality, while Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae, and Plasmodium vivax cause milder forms of the disease.

The most well-known and typical effects of malaria are chills and fever, which tend to repeat in cycles. These cycles occur about every other day in P. vivax and P. ovale infections, but every three days in P. malariae infections. The cycles caused by P. falciparum are a bit more frequent than those of the other parasites, and fever may be continuous. Other possible effects of malaria include vomiting, joint pain, convulsions, and damage to the retina. Cerebral malaria, in which the infection reaches the brain, may cause brain damage and cognitive impairments, especially in children, who are most susceptible to cerebral infection. Cerebral malaria is also associated with whitening of the retina.


P. falciparum is both the most prevalent form of malaria, and the most deadly. It is responsible for more child deaths around the world than any other infectious disease. The effects of P. falciparum-related malaria can include enlarged spleen or liver, restricted blood supply to the brain, hemoglobinuria or the presence of hemoglobin in the urine, severe headache, and hypoglycemia or abnormally low blood sugar. If untreated, it can cause kidney failure, coma, and death. It may also cause developmental disorders in children. P. vivax and P. ovale can both cause chronic malaria, in which the patient may relapse months or years after the original infection.

Malaria prevention efforts include mosquito population control, wearing protective clothing or mosquito repellent, and using mosquito nets. Antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine, primaquine, and quinacrine may be used to treat infection or as a prophylaxis to prevent infection. A vaccine for malaria is currently under development. Education focused on avoiding mosquito bites and controlling mosquito populations, as well as on recognizing early signs of malaria infection, is also essential in the fight against the disease.


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Post 6

Why does the malaria parasite target liver cells?

Post 3

One of the best ways to prevent malaria would be looking at environmental causes. Malaria is spread through mosquitoes, and the problem is that in many areas, mosquito season is increasing. Many scientists believe this is just one of many effects of climate change. If we find ways to prevent, for example, excesses of standing water in hot countries, it can cut down on the breeding of infected insects.

The problem with things like spraying the mosquitoes is that they just follow basic evolution- the strongest survive and pass on their strength to future mosquitoes.

Post 2

I had no idea that you could have chronic malaria as well as just coming down with it once. Imagine having those malaria symptoms, including the various cycles mentioned, repeatedly over several months. I imagine that would be very painful and tiring.

Post 1

I was reading an article that said that the effects of malaria on the body of pregnant women can be fatal for her and her fetus. However, for other people that survive this disease it can reoccur up to two years later which is really scary.

I think that if you are going to travel abroad especially to a more remote area you can check with the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control to see if the country that you are visiting has had any outbreaks or problems with malaria. It is better to be safe than sorry.

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