Malaria and the fight against it

IAS News 20 November 2012 | 0 Comments

What is malaria?

Malaria is a highly infectious disease that is caused by two parasites called Pasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. These parasites are transmitted into humans through a mosquito bite, and then multiply in the liver and quickly infect red blood cells, which can cause fever, headache, and vomiting. If this disease is left untreated, it can quickly become life threatening. This is the case because it disrupts the blood supply to many vital organs. In many parts of the world, the parasites have developed resistance to a number of malaria medicines. Symptoms may take up to 7 days to show in humans, and relapses are possible for weeks and months after, even if the area where the infection occurred has been left. This is due to dormant liver forms being present for some time after, unless specific treatment is used.
The intensity of the disease, which is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito, namely the Anopheles species, can depend on a number of factors. These include but are not limited to the age of the mosquito, the health of the human host, and the climate in which the infection has taken place. It was estimated that in 2010, there were 216 million cases of malaria worldwide and 655,000 people died; with over 90% of these being in the African Region. Mortality rates from malaria have dropped by more than 25% worldwide since 2000; and by a third in the African Region. The vast majority of bites occur between dusk and dawn, and infection is more intense where the mosquito lifespan is longer, meaning the parasite has longer to develop within the mosquito. This is proven by the fact that the African species, which has a long lifespan and a high habit of biting humans as opposed to animals, has a death rate of at least 90%.

Fighting against malaria

At present, WHO recommends Artemisinin Compounded Therapies (ACTs) for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria. Artemisinin, which is derived from the leaves of Arteminsia annua, also known as sweet wormwood has a long history of traditional use for reducing fevers as well as for treating malaria.

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