April 25 is World Malaria Day: A good opportunity to take a look at the current prophylaxis, diagnosis, and treatment of this dangerous tropical disease that claims around 400,000 lives each year.
|Parasite||Type of malaria||Region||Incidence|
|Plasmodium falciparum||Falciparum malaria||Tropical regions||49 %|
|Plasmodium vivax||Tertian malaria||Temperate climate zones||43 %|
|Plasmodium malariae||Quartan malaria||Africa||7 %|
|Plasmodium ovale||Tertian malaria||West Africa||1 %|
|Plasmodium knowlesi||Quotidian malaria||Southeast Asia||n/a|
How dangerous is malaria?
The symptoms of malaria have few characteristics. Usually they are flu-like symptoms without the symptoms of a cold. Typical symptoms are episodes of fever with chills, headache, back pain, and joint pain. Sometimes fever symptoms do not occur during the disease, however. With falciparum malaria, life-threatening conditions can occur after a few days. Early treatment prevents this situation from happening. This is why a rapid diagnostic test can be life-saving.
How can you protect yourself?
Even though the University of Tübingen is currently researching a very promising vaccine, there is no vaccination for malaria so far. The best protection is to avoid mosquito bites, for example, by wearing suitable clothing and using mosquito nets. Medications can also be taken for malaria prophylaxis (chemoprophylaxis). People taking a short trip or traveling to regions with a lower malaria risk may consider taking a malaria agent with them for self-treatment (standby therapy). For such cases, a rapid malaria test is also a recommended item for the trip as it enables early diagnosis and prevents delays in treatment. R-Biopharm AG is currently in the study phase with the objective of having a “travel kit” approved that is designed for untrained persons.
How is malaria diagnosed?
The standard method for diagnosing malaria is the detection of Plasmodium in the peripheral blood using a Giemsa-stained “thick drop”. A rapid test is a quicker alternative that does not require a laboratory and can be performed by untrained persons. Tests such as RIDA®QUICK Malaria have been developed so that they can be performed easily and quickly in the laboratory, especially where there is no microscopic expertise available. A drop of blood from a fingertip is sufficient. The test is also designed as a confirmation test in case of uncertain parasite morphology, as a screening method in a series of tests, and for therapy monitoring. The diagnostic confirmation of malaria is based on microscopic examination of the blood.