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Communicable diseases: 11. Example of a protist pathogen communicable disease - malaria

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Sub-index of biology notes on communicable diseases


(11) Example of a protist pathogen communicable diseases

Malaria is caused by a protist (a type of unicellular eukaryote cell).

Malaria causes damage to red blood cells and in severe cases, the liver.

Malaria causes repeated episodes of fever which can overwhelm the bodies defences and prove fatal.

The symptoms of malaria include fever (raised temperature above normal), sweats and chills, headaches, muscle pain, diarrhoea and a cough.

Part of the malarial protist's life cycle is inside an animal - including us!

The mosquito is an animal vector - a 'carrier' - a means of spreading a disease - it conveys the protist without any ill-effect to itself - it just passes the protist on without developing the disease!

In this case the mosquito insect is the animal vector.

The female mosquito feeds by sucking blood from warm-blooded animals - if the animal is infected with malaria, the protist is spread when the same mosquito feeds on another animal.

When the mosquito does feed on another animal, it infects it by inadvertently passing the malarial protist into the blood stream when feeding - the mosquito's mouthparts are adapted to break through skin and suck out blood, but the act of feeding inserts the malaria protist at the same time.

Malaria is still a common infection in many parts of the world but you can do some things to combat it.

The mosquito's life cycle is complicated.

Mosquitoes breed on standing water where the eggs hatch and the larvae develop into pupas in the water.

You can reduce the spread of malaria by stopping the mosquitoes from breeding e.g. affecting their breeding grounds by draining swamps in various ways e.g.

You can spray swamps with insecticide (biodegradable I hope).

You can spray oil on the water to stop the larvae breathing.

As a precaution, people living in areas with malaria risk should make sure any containers of standing water from rain are got rid of to minimise risk of mosquitoes breeding on the surface of the water.

For your own personal protection strategies from insect bites and reduce the chance of spreading malarial disease you can ...

(i) use insecticide sprays to kill the mosquitoes,

(ii) treat any exposed skin with insect repellent,

(iii) employ mosquito nets over your bed at night to stop getting bitten while sleeping,

 - all of which are designed to stop mosquitoes biting you and passing the malaria disease on!

If infected, you can take an antimalarial drugs to kill the specific harmful protist in your bloodstream.


Keywords, phrases and learning objectives for this part on malaria

Know that malaria is an example of a protist pathogen communicable disease.

Be able to understand the life cycle of the mosquito insect in terms of a vector.

Know the malaria infection symptoms e.g. fever, how malaria infection can be treated, methods of protection and strategies to avoid mosquito bites.


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