Health Science

How mosquitoes can cause malaria

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Do you know what the biggest killer in Africa is? The mosquito. No, really. This tiny fly is actually the deadliest animal in the world, even though it might appear harmless. Mosquitoes feed on the blood of humans and animals, but their bites are rarely felt. Their saliva, however, does produce an itchy sensation. Most of the time, if a mosquito bites you, you’re going to have a bit of itching and perhaps swelling, and that’s about it.

However, if you’re in Africa and you get bitten, it can be a different story altogether. Because mosquitoes regularly move from host to host, they can transmit an array of diseases including malaria, yellow fever, Zika virus, lymphatic filariasis, and many more. This makes mosquitoes the deadliest creature on the planet, causing more than one million deaths every year. So how do mosquitoes cause malaria? First, it’s important to look at what malaria is.

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Malaria

Malaria is an infectious disease that affects humans and animals and is one of the most serious diseases on the planet. There are five different strains of malaria that exist, with the P. falciparum causing the most deaths by far. Malaria works by attacking the body through parasites. Symptoms include headaches, vomiting, and tiredness, as well as fever and yellow skin. If left untreated, malaria can often be fatal and accounted for almost three-quarters of a million deaths in 2015.

Malaria is not an especially big issue in the developed world, and mosquitos in the Northern hemisphere rarely, if ever, carry it. However, in tropical and subtropical regions, it is endemic. Africa battles a huge problem with malaria, a problem that is thought to cost the continent around $12 billion per year. There are hundreds of millions of cases of malaria every year, with 90% of cases being in Africa. There are also a lot of deaths from malaria each year, making it a very real and active threat to the people of Africa.

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How it’s caused

Malaria, as we know, is caused by mosquitoes, but how? Well, the thing that actually causes malaria is a one-celled parasite known as Plasmodium. Female mosquitoes contract the parasite when they bite infected people, and the parasite reproduces inside the mosquito. It is then passed from organism to organism through the mosquito bite, where the parasite heads through the bloodstream to the liver and reproduces.

So, if you want to get technical, mosquitoes don’t actually cause malaria, they simply transmit it. They are conduits for the parasite to thrive and multiply, and they then pass it on, through their saliva, into the bloodstream of victims. Interestingly, not all species of mosquito transmit malaria. It is only the mosquitoes of the Anopheles genus that transmit it, and only the females of the species.

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Treatment and prevention

There are many ways to treat and prevent malaria, and they are easy for those of us in the developed world. Malaria tablets and injections can play a big role in helping you combats the risk of contracting malaria. There are also basic things like mosquito nets and spray that can help keep you from being bitten as well.

But it’s also important to have mosquito control measures in place to prevent the likelihood of malaria spreading. Spraying insecticides and draining stagnant water are some of the common ways of dealing with the issue. While malaria will likely never be eradicated from Africa, there are plenty of things that can be done to reduce the likelihood of being bitten, and combat potential symptoms of malaria.

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About the author

Rebecca Walton

Rebecca has always been fascinated with the business and tech world, having grown up with parents in the industry. She has a real passion for science - particularly space and the unknown realms that surround the planet! Rebecca has been writing for different publications for nearly 6 years and is now an editor at Pangaea Express.