Malaria Series: Causes, Pathophysiology, Signs and Symptoms

Hey guys, welcome to Thrive Nigeria. Thanks for hanging around, this week we’re starting a brand new post series where we’ll extensively talk about Malaria as it’s a serious issue especially in the part of this world.

In this series, We’ll be covering everything you need to know about this deadly disease in four different posts.

  • Malaria Series: Causes, Pathophysiology, Signs, and Symptoms.
  • Malaria Series: Complications (Things That Could Happen to You As a Result of Malaria)
  • Malaria Series: Prevention and Treatments.
  • Malaria Series: What to Eat and What Not to Eat.

Let’s dive in.

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious medical condition (disease) caused by a bite from the female Anopheles mosquito. Malaria is an attention-grabbing public health problem in the world with chronic prevalence in Nigeria.

Over the years, the incidence and prevalence of malaria have reduced.

This reduction is due to improved availability and use of insecticide-treated nets, diagnosis-based treatment with artemisinin-based combination therapy, engagement of communities in malaria control, and strengthening capacity in vector control for malaria (1).

What is malaria? (The Definition)

Malaria is defined as a medical condition (disease) caused by the Plasmodium parasite which is carried by the female Anopheles mosquito and transmitted into the human body through its bites as the causative organism is present in its saliva.

Malaria is classified as a public health problem majorly in Africa. Malaria is not contagious.

How long it takes to fall sick after being bitten? (Incubation Period)

malaria series

From the point of infection of the parasite by the female Anopheles mosquito to the onset of symptoms may take 14 days to 1 year.

The species of Plasmodium parasite the patient is infected with determines the incubation period amidst other factors such as your genotype and the strength of your immune system.

Causes of malaria (The brain behind malaria)

The cause of malaria is the Plasmodium parasite. The manifestation of the malaria is dependent on the species of Plasmodium the individual is infected with.

There are 5 different species of the Plasmodium parasite and they are prevalent in different parts of the world. The list goes thus;

  • Plasmodium falciparum: This is the deadliest species of the Plasmodium parasite that affects the human race and it causes the deadliest type of this disease. It is known as the deadliest parasite that affects the human race as it claims a conservative estimate of about one million people each year (2). This parasite is the most prevalent in Nigeria as we account for 25% of the global cases and death (3).
  • Plasmodium vivax: This parasite is mainly found in Asia, Latin America and in some parts of Africa. The parasite is the most frequent and widely distributed cause of recurring malaria (4).
  • Plasmodium ovale: This is a species of the parasite that causes Tertian malaria in humans. It is rare and less dangerous than Plasmodium falciparum. Plasmodium ovale is primarily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and in islands in the Western Pacific (5).
  • Plasmodium malariae: Plasmodium malariae is low in prevalence and milder clinical manifestations compared to other species. It is widespread throughout Sub-saharan Africa, much of Southeast Asia and Indonesia (6).
  • Plasmodium knowlesi: This is a primate malaria parasite. It also affects humans, commonly in Southeast Asia (7).

What happens in your body when a mosquito bites you? (Pathophysiology of Malaria)

malaria series

When a Female Anopheles Mosquito takes a blood meal, the parasites in the mosquito’s saliva enters into the body and then migrate to the liver and then affect the liver cell.

Some of the parasites remain dormant in the liver while some travel through the bloodstream and then affect red blood cells.

The affected red blood cells then burst and affect other blood cells, this causes an inflammatory response which presents itself as Fever.

The parasites have an upper hand over the body’s immune system because these parasites are wrapped in red blood cells and liver cells making them invisible to the body’s immune system.

Over time, infected blood cells get destroyed in the spleen, this is a healthy body physiological process.

To avoid this process, the parasite produces a protein that makes sure it doesn’t get to the spleen. Then another mosquito bites the individual and then carries the parasite in the blood (8).

How do you feel when you have malaria? (Signs and symptoms of Malaria)

How does your body respond to Malaria when it’s coursing through your veins? The signs and symptoms of Malaria include the following;

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Joint and Bone pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea

How do I know If I have malaria? (Diagnosis)

malaria causes signs and symptoms

Malaria can be diagnosed through the signs and symptoms, but this method of diagnosis (clinical diagnosis) cannot be entirely relied upon. Other disease conditions share the same symptoms (differential diagnosis) as malaria and the wrong diagnosis could be fatal.

The most reliable method of diagnosis is by carrying out a laboratory test (microscopic diagnosis) to confirm if you have malaria or not.

Another method of diagnosis is by RDT’s (Rapid Diagnostic Test).

And with all that said, we’ve come to the end of the road for this one. We hope you’ve been able to learn a thing or two about

Stick around for the next post on this series, you don’t wanna miss it 🙂 Hint: Subscribe to Thrive Newsletter to get them delivered to your email as soon as they go live.

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