How can malaria be diagnosed?
If you have traveled to areas where there is high risk of exposure to malaria, and symptoms of malaria occur, it is recommended to seek for medical assistance in order to dismiss it, because the symptoms of malaria can be confused with those of flu.
Malaria can be diagnosed with an analysis of the patient's red blood cells under a microscope (you can see they are parasitized), although it is possible that, your have to repeat the analysis after two or three days in order to verify the complete cycle of the parasite.
Traditional medication for malaria
The traditional medication against malaria is based on antimalarials. Antimalarial drugs have a destructive action of malaria parasites and, therefore, they try to eliminate malaria parasites in the infected body.
Examples of antimalarials
- Drugs for preventing malaria: Hydroxychloroquine sulfate.
- Drugs to treat malaria plasmodium: Pyrimethamine, Doxycycline, Doxycycline monohydrate, calcium Doxycycline and Chloroquine.
Chloroquine: to destroy plasmodium asexual forms in our body. It is used in the prophylaxis and treatment of malaria disease.
Possible side effects: eye and vision problems, pain in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss and loss of appetite.
Pyrimethamine: to destroy Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. It is used in the prophylaxis and treatment of malaria disease.
Possible side effects: rash, severe pain in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, insomnia, decreased white blood cells (leukopenia) and anemia.
Mefloquine: contraindicated by the Competent Authority (Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products) from 2011. A scientific study (National Agency of the European Union) demonstrated that it generates serious or potentially serious interactions when administered in patients taking drugs that prolong the QT interval (time measurement of a wave of the electrocardiogram) and can cause arrhythmias and heart disease.
It is also contraindicated in patients taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.
Problems with malaria
Malaria parasite is an organism much more complex than that of a virus or a bacterium, that is say, it contains much more quantity of DNA, thus complicating the production of a vaccine which may be effective against malaria infection.
Vaccines are not 100% effective and some types of parasites have developed resistance to them. In addition, they have a lot of side effects. Currently, there are some vaccines whose efficiency ranges from 40-60% in adults and 10% in children.
The WHO (World Health Organization), which has long been trying to minimize this disease, has concluded that the most effective methodology to eradicate this disease could be based on reducing the number of insects that can transmit the disease.
For this reason, people began using an insecticide known as DDT. The problem arose when the mosquitoes began to develop resistance to this insecticide, reducing its effectiveness. In addition, people who were already sick and were given antimalarial drugs began to experience the same. Malaria parasites in their bodies began to develop resistance (survivance) to the drugs administered.
An example of a drug that was used until the 60's and now is not effective against malaria is chloroquine. However, since it is very economical, it is still being used in some parts of Africa. It is true that it can improve some symptoms in people who are normally exposed to the parasite and are already infected by its bites, but chloroquine is still not being effective for new infections.
Mefloquine is another example of drug produced in the 80s, which is already beginning to develop resistance in some areas. In other areas, it is still effective, however it is related and has been attributed with adverse neurological side effects.
For these reasons, malaria medication has to be considered before being administered. Doctors should keep in mind if there is another medication without so adverse effects or if there is a better treatment. Some doctors are even pondering whether it is preferable to assess the consequences of the untreated disease.
More information on malaria in the listing above
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This material is for informational purposes only. In case of doubt, consult the doctor.