Protist diseases

Protists are a group of microorganisms that have features that belong to animals, plants and fungi. Some are like animals, others more like plants and some, called moulds, are closest to fungi.

Malaria

Causative agent

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes which carry the Plasmodium protist. These are often found in areas with higher temperatures like Africa, Asia, and South and Central America, but not the UK. Plasmodium is spread via female mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles. These mosquitoes bite humans and inject Plasmodium into the bloodstream, so they are the vectors of the disease.

Effect on infected individual

The symptoms of malaria include a fever, sweats and chills, headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea, due to destruction of red blood cells. Of the 200 million people infected each year, up to half die from this disease.

Preventing transmission

There is no vaccination for malaria. Infection can only be prevented by stopping individuals from being bitten. People sleep under mosquito nets and wear insect repellent to avoid bites. Antimalarial drugs are also taken, which treat the symptoms and can prevent infection.