What happens during an infection?
Malaria is caught by being bitten by a mosquito which has been infected with tiny parasites. Parasite spores called sporozoites in the saliva of the mosquito travel through the bloodstream to the liver and then multiply for 5-16 days without producing any symptoms.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Once the organism is mature it ruptures and releases organisms called merozoites into the blood, which then invade and damage oxygen-carrying red blood cells. These red blood cells burst and the merozoites released from the cells continue to infect other red cells. This is when symptoms of malaria usually start to occur.
It can take over 3 months to get symptoms of malaria.
Plasmodium falciparum, the commonest type of malaria, brings about extensive changes in human red blood cells. These include loss of the normal disc shape, increased rigidity of the membrane and elevated permeability.
This means they break down quicker and there’s much less of them. These red blood cells carry oxygen around the body. Which then leads to worsening symptoms and issues such as severe anaemia and liver dysfunction.
The parasite also releases toxins into the body.
The parasite secretes numerous toxic proteins which add to these effects. The production of new red blood cells may also be affected too.
The type of Malaria depends on the Plasmodium species and species vary across different areas. Different medications are used to prevent and treat the Malaria dependant on these types.
What’s my risk of getting malaria?
The risk for travellers of contracting malaria is highly variable from country to country and even between areas in a country. As the different species vary greatly across different areas, different medications may be required during a trip.