Malaria is caused by one of four species of the Plasmodium parasite, namely Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale and Plasmodium malariae. The parasite is spread through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito.
Malaria is diagnosed clinically with the presence of fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms, as well as laboratory tests such as thick and thin film malaria smears, or rapid diagnostic tests.
Other illnesses with similar symptoms such as dengue fever, typhoid fever, leptospirosis, and other infections should be considered in the differential diagnosis of malaria.
Treatment of malaria should be guided by the susceptibility of the infecting species to the available antimalarial drugs. For uncomplicated malaria, treatment is generally with artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). Severe malaria requires treatment with intravenous antimalarials such as quinine or artesunate.
Prognosis for malaria is generally good with prompt and effective treatment. Delayed treatment can lead to severe complications such as cerebral malaria, renal failure, or even death.