Recurring Malaria

QUESTION

I had malaria twice when I was 4 and 8 years old. I am 50 years old now but I have severe chills at least once or twice a month, muscle aches, fatigue severe head aches for the past 10-15 years with no apparent cause and my I take head ache medication for migraine (maxalt and excedrim) and my chills and fatigue is getting more frequent. I had no other history of any diseases. Is this symptoms a possible recurrent malaria.

ANSWER

Thanks for your question. One of the most common symptoms of malaria is high fever, which comes in cycles with chills in between. Without fever, it is unlikely that you are suffering from malaria.

However, there are some forms of malaria which can cause relapses. Specifically, Plasmodium vivax and P. ovale can form dormant liver stages which can then re-enter the blood causing a relapse of malaria infection and a recurrence of symptoms. To diagnose malaria in your case, next time you have an episode of chills, go to your doctor and ask for a blood test to check for malaria. S/he will either look at your blood under the microscope or perform a rapid diagnostic test, which tests for malaria-specific proteins, called antigens, in your blood.

In either case, it will tell you whether you have malaria, and which kind. If you have one of the relapsing kinds (P. vivax  or P. ovale) then you may be able to take a course of a drug called primaquine which kills the dormant liver forms of the malaria parasite and thus prevents future relapses. However, people with G6DP deficiency should not take primaquine, so you should be tested for this deficiency prior to taking the drug.

Comments

  1. Nick Graham says

    I suffer recurring bouts of severe nausea, sweating and chills, combined with loss of appetite. These occur roughly once a month. When trying to sleep, I have very vivid dreams and on awakening I am very fatigued and listless.
    These bouts occur frequently, roughly monthly.
    I spent some time in the south of France. But more recently have recently had several bites from “Horseflies”. in the north of England.
    I would be grateful if you could advise me on these symptoms.
    Thank You

    Nick Graham

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    • Claire Standley, Editor says

      Hi Nick,

      Thanks for your question. If you only traveled to the south of France or within the UK prior to the start of these symptoms, then you are unlikely to have malaria. Likewise, horseflies are not common disease vectors (for human ailments, at least) outside of the tropics. However, it is always recommended to be careful with regards to unusual symptoms associated closely with insect bites, so I recommend that you discuss your symptoms with your doctor, and if possible, consult with a specialist on vector-borne diseases.

      - Claire

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