5.3  Malaria parasites

Malaria is caused by Plasmodium parasites. Plasmodium parasites infect people and attack the red blood cells, which often leads to severe illness and death. The parasites are spread to people through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes, which are the malaria vectors and which bite mainly between dusk and dawn.

There are four types of human malaria, each due to one of the parasites with the following specific names:

The species names of malaria parasites are frequently abbreviated to P. falciparum,P. vivax, etc.

  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Plasmodium vivax
  • Plasmodium malariae
  • Plasmodium ovale.

Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax are the most common malaria parasites in Ethiopia. 60% of malaria infections in Ethiopia are due to P. falciparum and 40% are due to P. vivax. P. falciparum is the most deadly and requires special attention.

Although both parasites are widely distributed, some communities will have more falciparum malaria while others will have more vivax malaria. Do you know which type of infection is more common in your community?

5.2  Epidemiology and distribution of malaria in Ethiopia

5.3.1  Life cycle of the malaria parasite