Malaria remains one of the most important infectious diseases in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. According to WHO’s estimations, close to 50 per cent of the global population is at risk of malaria with the most seriously affected being underprivileged populations living under very difficult and impoverish conditions.
The infection occurs in humans when a female Anopheles mosquito injects one of the five Plasmodium parasites while taking a blood meal usually at dawn or at dusk. Once the parasite enters in circulation, malaria develops in the liver and subsequently in the bloodstream (active stage) with clinical symptoms appearing on average within 9 to 14 days after infection. In Africa, 90% of malaria cases are attributable to P. falciparum.
Clinically, malaria is broadly divided in complicated and severe. The progression to its most severe form occurs within a matter of a few hours primarily due to a failure in early detection and prompt treatment. If left untreated, severe malaria can be fatal, especially in children <5-years old, with a mortality rate thought to approach 100%; whereas if treated, it falls to 15-20%.
Although malaria’s mortality rate has been cut by almost half in the African continent since the year 2000, the number of deaths remains high with only a small decrease posted in 2012 when compared to the previous years and a slight increase in the number of cases during the same period.
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