Infectious Diseases

Malaria and the Immune System Recent Discoveries

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Malaria weakens the immune system. It is a parasitic disease whereby parasites from mosquitoes inhabit the red bloods cells of victims and continue to overcrowd the cell until it bursts. Young children and pregnant women are most at risk of serious illness from malaria. A person who lives in a malaria-infected land gets exposed to these parasites repeatedly. This raises the body's ability to get rid of the parasite.

The malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, lives in the body of its victim for a long while. The immune system of such a human combats the parasite by ridding itself of the diseased cells. As long as this function continues, the person will show no symptoms. Once the parasite no longer attacks the cells, then symptoms present. Different types of the parasite can cause the body to have fewer or more symptoms than other types.

Currently, five types of the parasite cause malaria: P. knowlesi, P. flaciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale.  P. Vivax is the malaria known worldwide, but its symptoms are milder than those of falciparum. They are like the common flu. P. Ovale is the rarest type. P. falciparum is the most dangerous and most widespread of all the types.

When a person contracts the disease, it is important to get the person's body temperature to 98.6 degrees F. Friends and family can do this by applying ice bags around the victim's body. After the temperature becomes normal, then the person can eat citrus fruits and steamed vegetables. Cinnamon and lime juice are two healthy additions which will help a person suffering from malaria.

Prescribed medicines include chlorquine, quinine, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine and primaquine. Fever and seizures are the main symptoms these medications combat. Chloroquine is the main drug that malaria patients have development immunity to so it may not affectively help a patient who gets malaria repeatedly.

Adults with a strong immune system often show no symptoms, even though they have had exposure to the parasite.. However, children do not have the same immunity. Most children bitten by a mosquito with the parasite can become deathly ill. The same goes for pregnant women. During pregnancy, a woman's immune system undergoes natural changes like body temperature and lack of fluids.

Recent discoveries include the type of parasites and their ability to work together with other parasites to render a medicine ineffective. Malaria affects the immune system in people not used to having the parasite in their bodies. Children and expectant women are most at risk of this fatal disease.  

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