Can malaria reoccur year after year from a single infection? I have been told that it comes back every year by many people. I have had malaria once and it never came back after successful treatment. My thinking is that once the parasite has been eliminated from the system it is gone unless you get bitten again.
There are several different types of malaria that infect humans, and two of these species (Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium vivax) can recur from year to year after a single infection.
The way it happens is that these types of malaria are able to form dormant life stages which hide in the liver. Most malaria medication only targets the blood stage form of malaria, and so these liver stages escape being killed by the medication, and can survive for long periods of time without the patient knowing about them. Then, at some point later (no one knows exactly what triggers the relapse—there is evidence that infection with other forms of malaria can instigate relapse, or being bitten by mosquitoes, or even just the climate), the liver stages activate again and re-enter the blood stream, which causes a renewal of symptoms.
It is possible to prevent these relapses—there is one type of medication, called primaquine, which is able to kill the dormant liver stages and thus completely clear the patient of malaria. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking primaquine, as it is not suitable for some people (especially those with G6DP deficiency).
Apart from these two types of malaria, the other three forms that infect people (P. falciparum, P. malariae and P. knowlesi) cannot reoccur in the same way as described above – if you have been infected with one of these, and then been successfully treated, you cannot get the disease again unless you are bitten by another infected mosquito.