What is malaria?
Malaria is a disease caused by a parasitic single-celled animal known as Plasmodium. There are different species of Plasmodium, which cause different kinds of malaria. The parasite is transmitted by certain species of mosquito; the parasite lives in the human blood stream and so goes in to the mosquito when the insect feeds. When the same individual mosquito then feeds on another person, it transmits parasites into a new host.
In humans, malaria causes severe illness and sometimes death – the World Health Organisation estimates that there are somewhere between 300 and 500 million cases of malaria each year, and as many as 1 million deaths.
Due to the temperature requirements of the parasite’s life cycle, malaria transmission is constrained to tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world, which means that the highest burden of disease falls on some of the world’s poorest people.
Having said that, many cases of malaria can be prevented using simple measures such as sleeping under an insecticide-treated bednet, and especially if promptly diagnosed, most cases can be treated using safe and effective medication. As such, malaria control is a key aim of many international development agencies and also the focus of a many scientific research groups around the world.
For more information about the specifics of malaria, please visit the Malaria Overview section of Malaria.com, or see our news and blogs sections of the website.