Malaria – signs, symptoms, causes and other complications


This is a life – threatening disease. Malaria is typically transmitted through a bite of the infected Anopheles mosquito. The infected mosquitoes are carrying the Plasmodium parasite. When the infected mosquito bites you, then the parasite is released into your bloodstream. When the parasites are inside your body, then they travel to your liver and there they mature. After several days, the mature parasites are entering your bloodstream and they begin to infect the red blood cells. Within 48 – 72 hours, the parasites which are inside the red blood cells multiply which is causing the infected cells to burst open. These parasites continue to infect your red blood cells which is resulting in symptoms that happen in cycles which last 2 – 3 days at a time. This disease is found in tropical and subtropical climates where the parasites can live [1]. There was one statement from WHO (World Health Organization) in which was said that about the half of world’s population were at risk of developing malaria in 2015 [2]. In the United States of America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have reported 1,700 cases of malaria per year [3]. It is known that the most cases of malaria develop in those people who are traveling to countries where the malaria is a common condition.

Signs and symptoms of malaria

The symptoms of the malaria typically develop within ten days to 4 weeks following the infection. There are some cases, when the symptoms develop for several months. There are some malaria parasites which can enter in our body and they will be dormant for long periods. Here are the most common symptoms of malaria:

  • Bloody stools
  • Coma
  • Convulsions
  • Muscle pain
  • Anemia
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Profuse sweating
  • High fever
  • Shaking chills that can range from moderate to severe

Causes: If the mosquito is infected with Plasmodium parasite bites you, then malaria can happen. You should know that there are 5 kinds of malaria parasites which can infect people:

  1. falciparum (This type of plasmodium parasite is mainly found in Africa and it is the most common type of malaria parasite. It is responsible for most malaria deaths worldwide.)
  2. malariae (This type of plasmodium parasite is quite rare and it is only found in the Africa.)
  3. ovale (This type of plasmodium parasite is fairly uncommon and usually it is found in West Africa and it can remain in the liver for several years without producing symptoms.)
  4. knowlesi (This type of plasmodium parasite is very rare. It is found in parts of Southeast Asia.)
  5. vivax (This type of plasmodium parasite is mainly found in South America and Asia. It is causing milder symptoms than Plasmodium falciparum but also it can stay in the liver for up to 3 years, which can result in relapses.)


Malaria causes

If the mosquito is infected with P. falciparum, then it can cause a more severe form of malaria and people who contract this form of malaria have a higher risk of death. Also the infected mother can pass this disease to her baby at birth which is known as congenital malaria [4]. This disease is transmitted through blood but also it can be transmitted through:

  • Use of shared needles or syringes
  • A transfusion
  • An organ transplant

Complications: This is a serious disease which can be fatal if it is not diagnosed and treated quickly. Young children, babies, elderly and pregnant women are having increased risk of getting malaria. The most severe malaria symptoms and most deaths are caused by the plasmodium falciparum. The complications of severe malaria can happen within hours or days of the first symptoms this is a reason why you should seek urgent medical help as soon as possible. Here are some complications that can be caused by malaria:

  • Anaemia: The malaria parasites can destruct the red blood cells, which is leading to anaemia. [5]
  • Cerebral malaria: There are rare cases when malaria can affect the brain and this condition is known as cerebral malaria. It can cause your brain to swell and sometimes this is leading to permanent brain damage. Also this cause fits (seizures) or coma [6].
  • Other complications: Dehydration; swelling and rupturing of the spleen; kidney failure; abnormally low blood sugar – hypoglycaemia; ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome); shock; pulmonary oedema and liver failure and jaundice


[1] Mohammadkhani M, Khanjani N, Bakhtiari B, et al. The relation between climatic factors and malaria incidence in Sistan and Baluchestan, Iran. SAGE Journals. 2019.

[2] World Health Organization (WHO). Fact sheet: World malaria report 2015. Retrieved from

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Malaria. Retrieved from

[4] Doolan DL, Dobaño C, Kevin Baird J. Acquired immunity to malaria. Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2009;22(1):13–36.

[5] White NJ. Anaemia and malaria. Malaria Journal. 2018. Retrieved from

[6] Kariuki SM, Ikumi M, Ojal J, et al. Acute seizures attributable to falciparum malaria in an endemic area on the Kenyan coast. Brain. 2011;134(5):1519-28.


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