6 May 2009
A Protozoan Parasite
Malaria parasites have been around since the beginning of time, and fossils of mosquitoes that are up to five-thousand years old show that malaria's vector has existed for just as long. The parasites causing malaria are highly specific, with man as the only host and mosquitoes as the only vector. Every year, 300,000,000 people are affected by malaria, and while less than one percent of these people die, there are still an estimated 1,500,000 deaths per year. While Malaria was one of the first infectious diseases to be treated successfully with a drug, scientists are still looking for a cure or at least a vaccination today (Cann, 1996). Though many people are aware that malaria is a disease, they are unaware that it is life threatening, killing over a million people each year, and is a very elusive target for antimalarial drugs (Treatment of Malaria, 1996).
Being a very specific disease, malaria is caused by only four protozoan parasites: Plasmodium falciparum (this is the only parasite that causes malignant malaria, and it causes the most severe symptoms and results in the most fatalities), Plasmodium vivax (this causes benign malaria with less severe symptoms than P. falciparum. P. vivax can stay in the liver for up to three years and can lead to a relapse), Plasmodium ovale (this causes benign malaria and can stay in the blood and liver for many years without causing symptoms), and Plasmodium malariae (this causes benign malaria and is relatively rare). Not only is the disease specific, but the parasites are too, with only sixty of three hundred eighty species of female Anopheles mosquitoes as vectors. With the exception of Plasmodia malariae, which may affect other primates, all parasites of malaria have only one host, Homo sapiens. Because some mosquitoes contain substances toxic to Plasmodium in their cells, not all species of mosquitoes are vectors of... [continues]
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