What pathogenic organism causes the disease?
Malaria is caused by single-celled organisms, called protozoans, of the genus Plasmodium. Different forms of malaria are caused by different species of Plasmodium. The most severe and deadly form is caused by P. falciparum, which is responsible for 90% of the global deaths from malaria, the majority of these in Africa, and mostly in young children. Other species of Plasmodium which commonly infect humans include P. vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae. Recently, a fifth form, P. knowlesi, has been found infecting rural communities in south-east Asia.
The disease is caused when the parasite enters the patient’s red blood cells, reproduces rapidly and then bursts out of the cell, destroying it in the process. The resultant immune response, combined with the chemicals and debris produced by theparasites, induces the fever, nausea, aches and other symptoms of a malaria infection.