Malaria is a disease, spread by mosquitoes, caused by a parasitic infection of the red blood cells by a 5 different protozoa from the plasmodium family. As the infection replicates and spreads the disease causes fever, shivering, joint pain, anemia, convulsions and headache. In severe cases the disease can cause a coma or death. The disease is found in many parts of Asia, Central and South America, and most of Africa. It is estimated to affect over 250 million people each year and cause 1 million deaths. Let’s take a look at how this potentially fatal disease is treated.
What is the treatment for malaria?
The key to treating malaria is to kill the parasites that cause the disease. The earliest cure for the disease came from the bark of the cinchona tree, which was used by the indigenous people of Peru. The active ingredient of the tree, quinine, was extracted and isolated from the bark in 1820. Quinine was used to treat malaria for many years until it was replaced by chloroquine.
Today there are many anti malaria drugs on the market. Many of these can be used both as a treatment and as a preventative against the disease. The most common method of treatment is to use a combination of different antimalarial drugs to reduce the risk of the treatment failing or for the parasite to develop a resistance to the medication. In severe cases hospitalization is necessary and the drugs are administered intravenously.
Did you know?
Chloroquine was the most widely used antimalarial medication. However, drug-resistant strains of the parasite that causes malaria are becoming more common.
To be fully effective, some anti malaria drugs must be taken weeks in advance when being are being used as a preventative. This is why it is important to speak to your doctor as soon as possible if you are traveling to a country where malaria is considered a problem.