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Fighting the Malaria Menace

Dr Dhiman Sen, Dr Milan Chhetri, Dr Syamasis Bandhopadhyay and Dr S K Das

It is a disease that is older than humanity itself, causing 250 million cases of fever and one million deaths annually. Till date it remains one of the most infectious diseases in the entire world. Yes, we are talking of the dreaded malaria.
Malaria is likely to have originated in Africa, and co-evolved along with its hosts. The first evidence of malaria parasites had been found in mosquitoes preserved in amber from the Paleogene period that are approximately 30 million years old!

Malaria is an ancient disease caused by a protozoa called Plasmodium, having various subtypes including P.vivax, P.falciparum, P.ovale, P.malarie etc. The two most important varieties of malaria are P.vivax and P.falciparum. The former is called benign and the latter is known as malignant malaria, loosely. Though these protozoa cause the disease, they need a carrier, technically known as vector, which carries the pathogen but is not affected by it - the tiny menace called mosquito. There are several types of them, which carry this bug, including Anopheles.

What happens inside the body
Once an anopheles mosquito bites a host, the parasites are injected into the blood and they head straight towards the liver. There, they divide at a jet speed for the next week, where a single parasite gives rise to 30,000 daughter parasites. The host is perfectly well at this stage.

Then the distended liver cells burst open, releasing these daughter parasites into the blood stream of the host. The parasites receive perfect protection inside the blood cell and are not detected by the host’s immune system. They grow and divide again and the cycle is repeated. This uncontrolled growth and division leads to rapid destruction of red blood cells, and instead of a normal span of 120 days, the RBCs live only for 12-14 days. It leads to severe anaemia or lack of red blood cells in the body, one of the characteristics of Plasmodium Falciparum malaria. It means that sufficient oxygen cannot be delivered to the body cells and this alone explains many of the malaria symptoms. It can cause serious kidney failure, affect vital organs like brain and intestines and even cause death.
The symptom check for malaria
  • Fever – Any unexplained high fever with chill and rigor should alert oneself about the possibility of malaria, and appropriate action should be taken, including malaria blood test and prompt treatment.
  • Arthralgia or joint pain.
  • Headache.
  • Extreme exhaustion.
  • Dark coloured urine and poor flow of urine.
  • Stupor.
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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