The disease is caused by protozoan parasites, that is, unicellular microorganisms that adversely affect the organism they feed and reproduce on, the organism being known as the host. Malaria is a vector-borne disease – it spreads from person to person through another, intermediate host known as a vector. The vector in case of malaria is the female Anopheles mosquito. The mosquito becomes infected upon feeding on the blood of an infected person. The parasites then multiply and develop inside the gut of the mosquito, eventually migrating to its salivary glands. When the mosquito feeds on the blood of another person, the parasites are able to enter his or her bloodstream via the mosquito’s saliva.
The parasites known to cause malaria belong to the genus Plasmodium. Out of the many different species of such parasites, only five can infect humans. These species are known as Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium malariae and Plasmodium knowlesi. This group of Plasmodium species are commonly known as malaria parasites since they cause malaria in humans (they are human-pathogenic). P. falciparum is responsible for causing the most dangerous form of malaria, whereas the forms caused by the other species are milder and generally not fatal.
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