What effect does malaria have on blood cells?
Malaria survives by invading red blood cells (erythrocytes), then replicating within them several times (the exact number and timing of replication depends on the species of malaria), then, once done with replication, bursts from inside the red blood cells, destroying it in the process. As such, malaria infection decreases the number of red blood cells in a patient’s blood, which can lead to anaemia. Moreover, the most severe species of malaria, Plasmodium falciparum, forces red blood cells to stick to the insides of tiny blood vessels deep within major organs such as the kidneys and even brain. This process is called sequestration.
Infection with malaria is also often associated with a decrease in the overall number of white blood cells, but elevated numbers of monocytes can sometimes be observed.