I – Introduction:
A- Presentation of malaria:
Malaria is a serious parasitic disease transmitted by infected Anopheles mosquitoes. The disease is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium, which multiply in the liver and red blood cells of the human body. Symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache and muscle aches. In severe cases, the disease can lead to kidney failure, anemia, organ dysfunction and even death. Although the disease can be treated, it remains a significant cause of death in many developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Prevention is therefore essential, in particular through the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and prophylactic drugs.
B- Importance of malaria in the world:Malaria remains one of the most serious and widespread diseases in the world. According to the World Health Organization, there were around 229 million cases of malaria in 2019, with more than 400,000 deaths worldwide. Although the disease is present in more than 90 countries, it is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is responsible for a large proportion of deaths in children under five. Malaria also has significant economic repercussions, resulting in lost productivity and increased healthcare costs for affected families. The fight against malaria therefore requires concerted efforts to prevent the transmission of the disease, treat those infected and develop new tools for prevention and treatment.
C- Objectives of the article:
The aim of this article is to provide clear and concise information about malaria, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and current status of the disease worldwide. We aim to provide up-to-date, evidence-based information to help educate readers about the dangers of malaria, as well as ways to prevent and treat this life-threatening disease. We also hope to encourage a deeper understanding of the current global malaria situation, including highlighting the regions most affected, progress made in controlling the disease, and ongoing challenges. By providing accurate and easy to understand information about malaria,
II- Causes of malaria:
A- Vector: the Anopheles mosquito:
The Anopheles mosquito is the vector of malaria, responsible for transmitting the disease to humans. There are over 400 species of Anopheles, but only a few are involved in the transmission of malaria. Female Anopheles mosquitoes feed on blood to produce eggs, and it is when they feed on someone infected with the Plasmodium parasite that disease transmission can occur. Once infected, the mosquito can transmit the parasite to other people by biting them. Anopheles mosquitoes are most active at night and prefer warm, humid places to breed and feed. The fight against malaria therefore involves efforts to reduce the population of Anopheles mosquitoes, including through the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, indoor spraying of insecticide, and the elimination of mosquito breeding sites. Understanding the biology and ecology of Anopheles mosquitoes is therefore essential for the prevention and control of malaria.
B- Parasite: Plasmodium
The parasite responsible for malaria is Plasmodium, which is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected Anopheles mosquito. There are five species of Plasmodium that can infect humans, but the most common are Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. Malaria symptoms are caused by the parasite multiplying in the body’s red blood cells, which can lead to fever, chills, headache, muscle aches and fatigue. If left untreated, Plasmodium infection can lead to serious complications, including anemia, kidney failure, liver failure, and coma. The treatment of malaria is based on the use of antimalarials, which kill the parasite in the body.
III- Malaria symptoms:
A- Common symptoms:
Malaria symptoms can vary depending on the species of Plasmodium infecting the body, host immunity, and other factors. The most common symptoms of malaria include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Symptoms may appear between 7 and 30 days after the infected mosquito bite. In severe cases of malaria, symptoms may include seizures, respiratory failure, kidney failure, liver failure, impaired consciousness, and clotting problems. People with severe malaria may require hospitalization and intensive treatment. It is important to see a doctor quickly if you think you have been exposed to malaria and are showing symptoms, especially if you have traveled to an area where the disease is endemic. Early diagnosis and treatment of malaria can help reduce complications and save lives.
B- Serious symptoms:
In severe cases of malaria, symptoms can worsen quickly and become life-threatening. Severe symptoms of malaria can include seizures, impaired consciousness, kidney failure, liver failure, breathing problems, and severe anemia. In children under five and pregnant women, severe malaria can be fatal within hours or days. People with severe malaria require hospitalization and immediate treatment, which may include strong antimalarial drugs, oxygen therapy, and blood transfusion. Severe malaria can be prevented through prevention and early treatment of infection.
C- People most at risk:
Although anyone can be infected with malaria, some people are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms of the disease. Children under five, pregnant women and people living with HIV are particularly vulnerable to malaria and may develop severe symptoms more quickly. Travelers to areas where malaria is present are also at risk, as they have not developed immunity to the disease. Aid workers, soldiers and expatriates who live in areas where malaria is endemic are also at risk. People living in areas where malaria is endemic have usually developed some immunity to the disease, but are still at risk of developing severe symptoms due to reinfection or exposure to a different Plasmodium species. Malaria prevention is essential to protect those most at risk from the disease. Preventative measures such as insecticide-treated bed nets, mosquito repellents, and preventative antimalarial drugs can help reduce the risk of malaria infection.
IV- Diagnosis of malaria:
A- Rapid diagnostic tests:
Rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) are a quick and inexpensive way to diagnose malaria. They can be used to diagnose Plasmodium parasite infection in areas where resources and laboratory facilities are limited. RDTs use a small amount of blood taken by finger prick, which is applied to a test strip. The test result is obtained in just a few minutes, which allows rapid treatment of patients with malaria. RDTs are widely used in malaria control programs around the world, especially in rural and remote areas. Although RDTs are less accurate than more sophisticated laboratory tests, they can provide fast and accurate results, which is crucial for early diagnosis and management of malaria. RDTs are an important tool for improving the detection and management of malaria, especially in areas where access to health care is limited.
B- Laboratory tests:
Laboratory tests are a more accurate method of diagnosing malaria. These tests involve examining the patient’s blood under a microscope to identify Plasmodium parasites. Lab tests can also determine the amount of parasites present in the blood, which helps determine the stage of infection and monitor response to treatment. Although laboratory tests are more accurate than rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), they are more expensive and require laboratory facilities and trained personnel to perform the tests. Laboratory tests are used in hospitals and health centers where laboratory resources and facilities are available. Laboratory tests are particularly useful for diagnosing malaria in patients with severe symptoms or in patients with a history of malaria infection. Laboratory tests are also used to monitor the effectiveness of antimalarial treatment and to detect cases of resistance to antimalarial drugs.
V- Treatment of malaria:
A- Antimalarial drugs:
Antimalarial drugs are used to treat and prevent malaria. There are several types of antimalarial drugs, including chloroquine, artemisinin, mefloquine, and doxycycline. The choice of drug depends on the type of Plasmodium parasite involved, the severity of the infection, and the patient’s medical history. Antimalarial drugs can be taken as tablets or syrup, and some drugs can also be given by injection. Antimalarial drugs can have side effects, including nausea, vomiting, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset. It is important to follow the doctor’s instructions regarding dosage and duration of treatment. Antimalarial drugs can also be used for prevention, especially for travelers to areas with a high risk of malaria. Antimalarial drugs are a key part of the fight against malaria, but it is important to take preventative measures, such as using insecticide-treated bed nets and mosquito repellents to avoid bites from infected mosquitoes.
B- Other support measures:
In addition to antimalarial drugs, other supportive measures can be taken to help people with malaria recover and prevent complications. Patients with malaria should be treated for fever and other symptoms, such as headaches and muscle aches. It is also important to maintain good hydration to avoid dehydration. People with severe malaria may require hospitalization for intensive treatment, including regular monitoring of blood pressure and kidney function. Malaria patients should be closely monitored for any signs of complications, such as seizures, severe anemia, or kidney failure. In addition, preventive measures, such as the use of insecticide-treated bed nets and mosquito repellents, can help prevent malaria infection. The fight against malaria requires a comprehensive approach, with preventive, diagnostic and treatment measures, as well as efforts to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats and develop new drugs and vaccines to combat malaria.
VI- Prevention of malaria:
A- Use of mosquito nets:
The use of insecticide-treated bed nets is one of the most effective measures to prevent malaria infection. Mosquito nets are nets that can be hung over the bed to protect sleepers from the bites of mosquitoes infected with the malaria parasite. Insecticide-treated nets were developed to increase their effectiveness, as the insecticide repels and kills mosquitoes that land on the net. The use of mosquito nets has been widely promoted in high malaria risk areas, especially for pregnant women and young children, who are more vulnerable to malaria complications. Insecticide-treated bed nets are considered a long-term preventive measure against malaria, because they can last for several years if properly maintained. Although the use of mosquito nets is not a 100% guarantee against malaria infection, it is considered one of the most effective strategies to prevent the spread of this potentially deadly disease.
B- Prophylactic drugs:
Prophylactic drugs are antimalarial drugs that can be taken to prevent malaria infection. They are often recommended for people traveling to high malaria risk areas, especially those unfamiliar with the local environment and conditions. Prophylactic drugs work by preventing the malaria parasite from growing and spreading in the body. Drugs commonly used for malaria prophylaxis include chloroquine, doxycycline, mefloquine, and atovaquone-proguanil. The choice of drug will depend on factors such as destination, length of stay, and sensitivity of the local parasite to different drugs. Although prophylactic drugs are effective in preventing malaria infection, it is important to note that their use does not guarantee 100% protection against the disease. Additional preventive measures such as the use of insecticide-treated bed nets and avoidance of mosquito bites are also recommended. Prophylactic drugs should be taken as directed by the doctor and potential side effects should be considered before using them.
C- Elimination of mosquito habitats:
Mosquito habitat clearance is a malaria control strategy that aims to reduce the population of Anopheles mosquitoes by eliminating potential breeding sites. Anopheles mosquitoes need standing water to lay their eggs, so it is important to remove or empty anything that may contain standing water, such as used tires, buckets, canisters, flower pots , etc. Poorly maintained septic tanks and clogged drains can also create habitats for mosquitoes, so it’s important to clean them regularly. Using larvicides, such as mineral oil or Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis products, can also help reduce mosquito populations.
VII- Current situation of malaria in the world:
A- Most affected regions:
Malaria is a disease that mainly affects people in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, accounting for almost 90% of malaria cases and deaths worldwide. Southeast Asia, South Asia and Latin America are also areas where malaria is common. Rural areas are usually the most affected, as they often have conditions conducive to breeding Anopheles mosquitoes, such as standing water habitats. The most vulnerable populations are children under 5 and pregnant women, as their immune system is less resistant to the disease. Travelers to risk areas should take preventive measures to avoid becoming infected.
B- Progress in the fight against malaria:
Over the years, significant progress has been made in the fight against malaria. Prevention efforts have significantly reduced the number of malaria cases in some parts of the world. Indoor insecticide spraying campaigns, widespread use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets and administration of effective antimalarial drugs have significantly reduced mortality from this disease. New rapid diagnostic tools allow the disease to be diagnosed quickly, allowing for early treatment. Innovative research programs and international collaborations have also contributed to the fight against malaria. Despite this progress, Malaria remains a serious disease that affects millions of people each year. It is important to continue prevention and treatment efforts to further reduce the prevalence of malaria worldwide and help vulnerable populations protect themselves against this disease.
C- Persistent challenges:
Despite the progress made in the fight against malaria, several challenges persist. Resistance to antimalarial drugs, especially in areas where malaria is endemic, poses a growing threat to public health. Anopheles mosquitoes, vectors of the disease, are increasingly resistant to insecticides, which makes it more difficult to prevent the disease. Climatic and environmental conditions, such as climate change and deforestation, can also affect disease prevalence and transmission. In addition, malaria often affects the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, which makes the fight against the disease more complex. Despite these challenges,
A- Summary of key points:
Malaria is a serious and potentially fatal disease transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes infected with the Plasmodium parasite. Common symptoms include fever, headache, chills, and muscle aches, but the disease can also cause serious complications, such as severe anemia, kidney failure, and brain damage. Rapid diagnostic tests and laboratory tests are used to confirm the diagnosis, and antimalarial drugs are prescribed to treat the disease. Preventive measures include the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, taking prophylactic drugs, and eliminating mosquito habitats. Malaria is most prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, but it also affects parts of Asia and Latin America. Although progress has been made in the fight against malaria, persistent challenges such as drug resistance and difficulty in reaching the most vulnerable populations must be overcome.
B- Call to action:
Malaria remains a major global public health challenge, particularly in tropical and subtropical regions. Despite the significant progress made in recent years, the disease continues to affect millions of people each year and poses a threat to the most vulnerable populations. To end this pandemic, it is crucial that governments, international organizations and civil society work together to strengthen health systems, invest in research and development of new prevention and treatment tools, and improve the access to health care for the most affected populations. Each of us can also contribute to the fight against malaria by supporting charities and raising awareness about this disease. It is time to take concrete action to eliminate malaria and protect the most vulnerable communities from this deadly disease.