If a community has more cases of a certain illness, would that make the illness worse or more symptomatic? According to Medical XPress, researchers explored this question in relation to malaria. After analyzing malaria infection patterns in East Africa over a 14-year period, researchers determined that the more prevalent malaria is within a specific community, the more likely people are to have severe and life-threatening infections. Interested in learning more? Take a look at the research published in Science.
During their research, the researchers visited 26 separate communities spread across three main countries: Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda. While visiting, the researchers ran surveys around malaria and symptoms, as well as visited hospitals to determine the rates of infection. At the same time, the team performed independent research into historical malaria patterns and how the illness has affected these communities in the past. Because of the number of patients who are asymptomatic, researchers really sought to learn more about how to track infections and whether prevalence played a role in mortality.
Ultimately, the researchers found that the more prevalent malaria was within a community, the more severe infections were. For every 25% increase in infection rates, the amount of severely symptomatic individuals doubled. Additionally, the higher prevalence correlated with younger individuals being hospitalized at higher rates.
Every year, there are around 2,000 cases of malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, within the United States. However, this life-threatening parasitic illness is more common in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. One of 5 parasite species is transferred to humans through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Although this infection can be life-threatening or even fatal, it is both treatable and preventable. Outside of mosquito bites, patients may contract this illness through blood transfusions or sharing needles. Typically, symptoms appear within 7-30 days of infection. While some patients experience consistent symptoms, others experience intensely symptomatic periods known as “attacks.” These symptoms include:
- High fever
- Abdominal and chest pain
- Sweating and shaking chills
- Muscle aches
- Nausea and vomiting
Without treatment, malaria may also present complications such as:
- Low blood sugar
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Cerebral malaria
- Difficulty breathing
- Organ failure
There are preventative options for malaria. Once infected, treatment options include artemisinin-based combination therapies and chloroquine phosphate designed to kill the parasite.