Life Cycle of Malaria

Malaria is one of the deadliest and most lethal diseases present around the world in modern day, and kills about 660,000 people every year. Malaria is caused by a parasite and transferred via bite of mosquitoes. Intermittent and periodic bouts of chills, rigor, temperature and night sweats are produced due to malaria.

Malarial disease is uncommon in temperate environments, but predominant in tropical and subtropical regions causing widespread havoc. Researchers all around the world are working around the clock to come up with a permanent solution by developing a vaccine to fight against malaria. Knowing malaria's life cycle helps in getting better understanding about this disease and protecting ourselves for it.

Life Cycle of Malaria

The natural bionetwork of malaria involves two types of hosts: the human and the female Anopheles mosquitoes. Now we will describe malaria's life cycle in the following set of steps.

  1. Malaria infection starts off when an infected female Anopheles mosquito sits on and feeds off an uninfected person. By doing so it injects malaria, in the form of sporozoites, into the circulation of the human being.
  2. The sporozoites pass rapidly into the human liver where they get deposited, multiply asexually inside the liver cells and accumulate over the next 2 weeks. At this stage you will be symptomless. Over the next 5-16 days, the sporozoites grow, divide, and yield tens of thousands of haploid celss, called merozoites, in every liver cell.
  3. These merozoites leave the liver cells and enter the bloodstream again. In the blood, the merozoites attack red blood cells (erythrocytes) and multiply inside them again until the red blood cells erupts releasing thousands of merozoites further. They then further attack more erythrocytes. This cycle is repeated many times. During this stage, the affected person will experience symptoms of malaria.
  4. However, some of the infected blood cells leave the asexual multiplication cycle and rather than replicating, the merozoites in these cells change into sexual arrangements of the parasite, called gametocytes.
  5. Now, when an uninfected mosquito bites an infected human being, it consumes the gametocytes in the bloodstream. In the mosquito's intestines, the infected human blood cells burst and unleash the gametocytes. In the gut, they are further matured into gametes. Male and female gametes are produced which then fuse to form diploid zygotes, which further progressively mature into actively poignant ookinetes that tunnel into the mosquito midgut wall and form oocysts.
  6. Thousands of active sporozoites develop inside the oocyst. The oocyst ultimately bursts, discharging sporozoites into the body cavity that transport to the mosquito's salivary glands.
  7. The life cycle of malaria repeats again when an infected mosquito bites a human being.

If you still have any confusion about malaria's life cycle, watch the following vivid video to know how it cycles: 

Symptoms of Malaria

Basically, there are two types of malaria.

  • Uncomplicated malaria is identified when symptoms are manifested but there are no present clinical or laboratory tests to specify the severity of organ dysfunction. However, if it is not completely treated, or if patients show little or no immunity to counter the disease, it can develop into a severe form.
  • Severe malaria is diagnosed if clinical or laboratory test shows vital organ dysfunction. It is fatal if it is left untreated. Symptoms may include fever and chill, prostration, impaired consciousness, jaundice and evidence of organ dysfunction, deep breathing and respiratory distress, multiple convulsions and abnormal bleeding, such as anemia.


Knowing the life cycle of malaria and its symptoms is far from enough. Malaria is so lethal not only because it is a deadly disease itself, but also because it can lead many other lethal complications. In maximum cases, malaria deaths are associated with one or more grave complications, including:

  • Cerebral malaria: If parasite-filled blood cells cause blockage of small blood vessels to your brain (cerebral malaria), brain swelling or damage may occur. It may cause unconsciousness.
  • Breathing problems: Mounting up of fluid in your lungs (pulmonary edema) can cause breathing problems.
  • Organ failure: Malaria can cause your kidneys or liver to dysfunction, or your spleen to enlarge and rupture. Any of these conditions can be life-threatening and dangerous.
  • Anemia: Malaria injures red blood cells resulting in anemia.
  • Low blood sugar: Severe forms of malaria can cause low blood sugar.

How to Deal With Malaria

Treatment plans for malaria, like which drug to use and the length of treatment, are dependent on which type of malaria parasite has infected a person and the severity of the symptoms being manifested. Besides, age and pregnancy are other important factors. Here are some treatment options:

1. Take Medications

The most common antimalarial drugs are:

  • Chloroquine
  • Quinine sulfate
  • Hydroxychloroquine
  • Mefloquine
  • Combination of atovaquone/proguanil

But the malaria you have may become resistant to your current drug, which make the drug ineffective and force you to find new drugs. This is also the constant struggle of the development of malaria drug.

2. Prevent It

Vaccine is the best and foremost preventive method for protection against diseases. Even after years of research, there is still no malaria vaccine fit for human use. So, knowing the life cycle of malaria helps to prepare you better whenever you are at risk. For example, if you are travelling to an area where malaria is prevalent, you should consult a doctor in advance regarding what medication should be prescribed and taken.

If you are living in a place where malaria is prevalent, you can try the following measures to get relief:

  • Spraying your home's walls with insecticide can kill adult mosquitoes that fly around the house.
  • Sleeping in bed nets mainly those treated with insecticide is particularly recommended for pregnant women and young children.
  • Try to wear long-sleeved shirts and pants during active mosquito times, mostly from dusk to dawn, and keep your body parts covered.
  • Spray clothing and skin. The sprays comprising DEET can be used on the skin and those containing permethrin can be safely used on clothing.
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