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Malaria is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

Last Updated on March 23, 2023 by Nurse Vicky

Malaria is a parasitic disease that is transmitted through the bites of infected mosquitoes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were approximately 229 million cases of malaria
and 409,000 malaria-related deaths worldwide in 2019. Malaria is a serious disease that requires prompt treatment to prevent severe complications and death.
 In this article, we will discuss the most effective malaria treatments available today.

Understanding Malaria


What is malaria? Malaria is a disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite, which is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. There are five species of Plasmodium parasites that can cause malaria in humans, with Plasmodium falciparum being the most deadly.

What are the symptoms of malaria?


The symptoms of malaria typically appear 10-15 days after the mosquito bite and can include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. In severe cases, malaria can cause organ failure and even death. Malaria is a parasitic infection that is transmitted to humans through the bites of infected mosquitoes. The symptoms of malaria can vary depending on the type of parasite that has infected the person and their overall health.

However, the most common symptoms of malaria include:

  1. Fever: A high fever is one of the most common symptoms of malaria. It can occur in cycles, with the fever spiking and then subsiding every few hours.
  2. Chills: Along with fever, chills are another common symptom of malaria. The person may experience severe shaking and shivering.
  3. Headache: Malaria can cause severe headaches, which can sometimes be accompanied by dizziness and confusion.
  4. Muscle pain: The person may experience muscle pain and body aches, particularly in the back, arms, and legs.
  5. Fatigue: Malaria can cause extreme fatigue and weakness, making it difficult for the person to carry out daily activities.
  6. Nausea and vomiting: Some people with malaria may experience nausea and vomiting, which can lead to dehydration.
  7. Sweating: Profuse sweating is another symptom of malaria, particularly during feverish episodes.
  8. Jaundice: In severe cases of malaria, the person may develop jaundice, a condition that causes yellowing of the skin and eyes.

If left untreated, malaria can lead to life-threatening complications such as organ failure, severe anemia, and cerebral malaria.

It is important to seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms of malaria, particularly if you have recently traveled to an area where malaria is prevalent.

How is malaria diagnosed?


Malaria can be diagnosed through a blood test that detects the presence of the Plasmodium parasite. Antimalarial Medications Malaria is a parasitic infection caused by Plasmodium parasites that are transmitted to humans through the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. The diagnosis of malaria involves the identification of Plasmodium parasites in a patient’s blood sample.

Here are the different methods used for the diagnosis of malaria:

  1. Blood smear microscopy: This is the most common method used to diagnose malaria.
  2. A drop of the patient’s blood is placed on a slide, stained, and examined under a microscope for the presence of Plasmodium parasites.
  3. This method allows for the identification of the species of Plasmodium causing the infection, as well as the determination of the parasitemia level (the number of parasites in the blood).
  4. Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs): These are immunochromatographic tests that detect Plasmodium antigens in the patient’s blood.
  5. RDTs are easy to use, require minimal training, and provide results within 15 to 20 minutes. However, they are less sensitive than microscopy and may not detect low-level parasitemia.
  6. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR): This method detects Plasmodium DNA in a patient’s blood sample. PCR is highly sensitive and can detect low-level parasitemia. It is also useful for detecting mixed infections with different Plasmodium species.
  7. Serological tests: These tests detect antibodies to Plasmodium in a patient’s blood sample.
  8. Serological tests are not useful for the diagnosis of acute malaria as it takes time for antibodies to develop.

The choice of diagnostic method depends on the availability of resources, the level of expertise, and the clinical setting. Microscopy remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of malaria, especially in resource-limited settings. RDTs are a useful alternative when microscopy is not available or when rapid results are needed. PCR is useful for research purposes and in cases where other diagnostic methods have failed to provide a diagnosis.

What are antimalarial medications?


Antimalarial medications are drugs used to prevent or treat malaria, a potentially life-threatening disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite that is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected Anopheles mosquitoes.

Malaria is a significant public health concern in many parts of the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and antimalarial medications are an essential tool for controlling and preventing the spread of the disease. Antimalarial medications work by either killing the parasite or preventing it from multiplying in the body.

There are several types of antimalarial medications available, including:

  1. Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine: These drugs were once widely used to treat malaria, but their effectiveness has been reduced due to the emergence of drug-resistant strains of the parasite.
  2. Artemisinin-Based Combination Therapies (ACTs): These are the recommended first-line treatment for malaria.
  3. They are highly effective in treating the disease and have a low risk of side effects. Examples of ACTs
  4. include artemether-lumefantrine, artesunate-mefloquine, and artesunate-amodiaquine.
  5. Quinine: This medication is used to treat severe malaria and is typically given in combination with antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections.
  6. Primaquine: This drug is used to prevent the relapse of malaria caused by the Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium ovale parasites.
  7. Doxycycline: This medication is sometimes used to prevent malaria in travelers to areas where the risk of infection is low to moderate.

The choice of antimalarial medication depends on several factors, including the type of parasite causing the infection, the severity of the disease, and the location where the infection was acquired. It is important to follow the dosage instructions carefully and to continue taking the medication for the full course of treatment, even if symptoms improve.

What is chloroquine?

Chloroquine is an antimalarial medication that has been used for many years. It works by killing the Plasmodium parasite. However, chloroquine-resistant strains of the parasite have emerged in many parts of the world, limiting the effectiveness of this medication.

What is quinine?

Quinine is a naturally occurring alkaloid and antimalarial drug that is derived from the bark of the cinchona tree. It was first discovered in the 17th century by the Quechua people of Peru, who used the bark of the cinchona tree to treat fevers and other illnesses. 

Quinine was later used by the Spanish colonizers to treat malaria, a disease that was common in the tropical regions of South America. Quinine works by interfering with the ability of the malaria parasite to digest hemoglobin, a process that is essential for the parasite’s survival.

As a result, quinine kills the parasite and helps to reduce the symptoms of malaria, such as fever and chills. Today, quinine is still used as an antimalarial drug, although it has been largely replaced by newer and more effective drugs.

It is also used to treat some other medical conditions, such as leg cramps, where it can help to relax muscles and relieve pain. In addition, quinine is sometimes used as a flavoring agent in beverages, such as tonic water, due to its bitter taste.

What is mefloquine?


Mefloquine is a medication used to prevent and treat malaria, a potentially life-threatening disease caused by the Plasmodium parasite that is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected mosquitoes. Mefloquine belongs to a class of drugs known as antimalarials, which work by killing the malaria parasite that is present in the body.

Mefloquine is available in tablet form and is taken orally.


It is usually taken once a week as a preventive measure against malaria, starting a week before entering an area where malaria is endemic, and continuing for four weeks after leaving the area. Mefloquine can also be used to treat malaria, either alone or in combination with other antimalarials, depending on the severity and type of infection.

While mefloquine is generally safe and effective, it can cause side effects in some individuals. Common side effects include headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. More serious side effects, although rare, can include anxiety, depression, hallucinations, seizures, and heart problems.

Mefloquine is not recommended for individuals with a history of seizures, psychiatric disorders, or certain heart conditions. Mefloquine is one of several drugs used to prevent and treat malaria, and its use should be determined by a healthcare provider based on individual circumstances, such as the area of travel, risk of infection, and medical history. It is important to take mefloquine as directed and to report any side effects to a healthcare provider.

What are artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)?

ACTs are a combination of drugs that include an artemisinin derivative and another antimalarial medication. Artemisinin is derived from the sweet wormwood plant and works by killing the Plasmodium parasite.
 ACTs are recommended by the WHO as the first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria.  Other Malaria Treatments

What are other malaria treatments?

In addition to antimalarial medications, there are other treatments that can be used to manage the symptoms
of malaria and prevent complications.
These include intravenous fluids, blood transfusions, and oxygen therapy.

When are intravenous fluids used?


Intravenous fluids are commonly used in various medical settings for a variety of purposes. They are typically administered directly into a person’s vein through a sterile IV catheter. Some common situations where intravenous fluids may be used include:

  1. Dehydration: Intravenous fluids can be used to treat dehydration caused by illnesses such as diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive sweating.
  2. Surgery: Before, during, and after surgery, intravenous fluids are commonly used to help maintain a person’s fluid balance and electrolyte levels.
  3. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, heart failure, and sepsis may require intravenous fluids to help manage symptoms and maintain fluid balance.
  4. Medication administration: Some medications must be administered directly into a person’s vein through an intravenous line, so intravenous fluids may be used to help deliver these medications.
  5. Blood transfusions: Intravenous fluids may be used to help transfuse blood or blood products into a person’s vein.

Overall, intravenous fluids are an important tool used in healthcare to help manage a variety of medical conditions and maintain fluid and electrolyte balance in the body. Intravenous fluids are used to treat dehydration, which can occur as a result of fever, sweating, and vomiting.

When are blood transfusions used?


Blood transfusions are used in various medical settings when a person needs to replace lost blood or increase the amount of blood in their body.

The most common situations where blood transfusions are used include:

  1. Trauma: People who experience severe injuries from accidents, falls, or other types of trauma may need a blood transfusion to replace the blood they have lost.
  2. Surgery: Certain surgical procedures can cause significant blood loss, so blood transfusions may be necessary to help replenish the lost blood.
  3. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as anemia, sickle cell disease, and bleeding disorders, may require blood transfusions to manage symptoms and improve quality of life.
  4. Cancer treatment: Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can damage healthy blood cells, so people undergoing cancer treatment may require blood transfusions to maintain their blood counts.
  5. Transplantation: People who undergo organ or bone marrow transplants may need blood transfusions to support their recovery and prevent complications.

It’s important to note that blood transfusions carry certain risks, such as transfusion reactions and infections, so they are only used when necessary and under careful medical supervision. Before a blood transfusion is given, the blood is carefully screened and tested to ensure it is safe for the recipient.

Blood transfusions are used to treat severe anemia, which can occur as a result of the destruction of red blood cells by the Plasmodium parasite.

When is oxygen therapy used?


Oxygen therapy is used to treat respiratory distress, which can occur as a result of severe malaria.  Prevention of Malaria

What are the best ways to prevent malaria?


The best ways to prevent malaria include:

  • Using insect repellent on exposed skin and clothing
  • Sleeping under an insecticide-treated mosquito net
  • Taking antimalarial medications as prescribed
  • Wearing long-sleeve





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