Infectious Disease Compendium

Plasmodium aka Malaria


P. falciparum, P. malariae, P. ovale (two species), P. vivax, P. knowlesi, P. simium. 200 species all told.

Epidemiologic Risks

Getting bit by a mosquito, occasionally from transfusions.

And there is this weird case in Italy where one roommate in the hospital spread malaria to the other with no reason found (PubMed).

Everyone knows about sickle cell, but there are a large number of polymorphisms that give resistance to malaria (PubMed). I bet no organism has left more footprints on the human genome.

P. falciparum is mostly sub Saharan Africa and SE Asia. For excellent maps of endemicity, go to A new world malaria map: Plasmodium falciparum endemicity in 2010

P. malariae: the tropics of all continents. In SE Asia there can be a severe, sometime fatal malaria that is actually P. knowlesi (PubMed, MMWR).

P. knowlesi: SE Asia, especially Malaysia where it is the most common form (PubMed). Comes from monkeys and is indistinguishable from on smear from P. malariae, but will have a higher number of parasitized red cells (PubMed). At least three different populations (PubMed).

P. ovale : Africa and Asia. Turns out there are 2 types of P. ovale that are 2 distinct species that look the same, P. ovale curtisi and P. ovale wallikeri (PubMed). P. ovale wallikeri my be a bit worse (PubMed).

P. vivax: Asia and South America.  Parasitemia can be below the level of microscopic detection and need a PCR to diagnose (PubMed).

P. simium: Brazilian Atlantic forest; looks like P. vivax, found in monkeys but can infection humans (PubMed).

For risk of a given county go to http: //

Don't let the lack of a travel history dissuade you from considering malaria in a patient with cyclic fevers: there were over 50 local outbreaks of malaria in the US in the last half of the last century (MMWR) in people who have not travels. The mosquito and/or an infected human is a plane flight away.

Cool. Your skin bacteria flora makes products that attract malaria (PubMed).


Fevers mostly; q 48 hours with P. vivax or P. ovale, q 72 with P. malariae, P. falciparum is usually q 48, but is more variable and the patient is sicker.

Severe P. falciparum can cause sludging and organ infarction, especially worrisome in the brain (PubMed). Risks are being non black, having had prior malaria and having > 2% parasitemia (PubMed). Obesity and diabetes increase the risk for severe malaria (PubMed).

If you see schizonts on the smear, expect up to a 16 fold increase in parasitemia and a bad prognostic sign.

P. knowlesi patients are a lot sicker than those infected with P. malariae.

Anyone who has a fever in a malarious region is treated for malaria, but do they have malaria when febrile? It depends on the prevalence of malaria, but in "16,903 children surveyed, 3% were febrile and infected, 9% were febrile without infection, 12% were infected but were not febrile and 76% were uninfected and not areas where community-based infection prevalence in childhood is above 34-37%, 50% or more of fevers are likely to be associated with malaria (PubMed)." Take home: just because they have a fever and got therapy for Malaria, doesn't mean they had malaria.

P. simium is in Brazil, comes from monkeys and looks like P. vivax on the smear. (PubMed).


Given the changing resistance in malaria, always check the CDC site for up to date information. Call the CDC malaria hot line for help: 770-488-7788. And believe me, you will need help. This is a disease that can go south with remarkable rapidity.

P. falciparum:

No chloroquine resistance: chloroquine one gram, then 500 mg 6 hours later, then 500 mg at 24 and 48 hours.

Chloroquine resistance:

Mefloquine 750 mg followed by 500 mg 12 hours later OR

Quinine 650 mg q 8 hours for 3 days plus doxycycline 100 mg po bid for 7 days OR

Atovaquone plus proguanil (Comes in fixed combination tablets of 250 mg atovaquone and 100 mg proguanil Malarone®) four tablets daily for 3 days (may be administered as 2 tablets twice daily) OR

Azithromycin (750 mg twice daily) plus artesunate (100 mg twice daily) for 3 days (PubMed), OR

Azithromycin (500 mg 3 times daily) plus quinine (10 mg/kg 3 times daily) are safe and efficacious combination treatments for uncomplicated falciparum malaria OR

Artemether plus lumefantrine (Comes in fixed combination tablets of 20 mg artemether and 120 mg of lumefantrine). 6 dose regimen: 1st day: 4 tabs initially, then 4 tabs 8 hours later, 2nd day: 4 tabs twice daily, 3rd day: 4 tabs twice daily OR

6.75 of dihydroartemisinin and 54 mg/kg of and piperaquine, is more effective and better tolerated against multidrug-resistant P. falciparum and P. vivax infections (PubMed).

Pyronaridine–Artesunate daily for three days (PubMed).

Chloroquine or mefloquine resistant P. falciparum: doxycycline mg qd OR atovaquone plus proguanil 250 mg/100 mg (Malarone® one tablet) qd.

In severe disease, IV quinidine 10 mg salt/kg loading dose (max. 600 mg) in normal saline infused slowly at a constant rate over 1-2 hours, followed by continuous infusion of 0.02 mg/kg/min until oral therapy can be started. Artesunate is superior but you have to call the CDC to get it:

How to Obtain Artesunate

To enroll a patient with severe malaria in this treatment protocol, contact the CDC Malaria Hotline: 770-488-7788 (M-F, 8am-4:30pm, eastern time) or after hours, call 770-488-7100 and request to speak with a CDC Malaria Branch clinician.

Exchange transfusions doesn't help (PubMed).

P. malariae/P. knowlesi:

Chloroquine one gram, then 500 mg 6 hours later, then 500 mg at 24 and 48 hours.

P. knowlesi: Atovaquone-proguanil and primaquine has been used with success for (MMWR). Early Artesunate therapy has lower mortality (PubMed).

P. ovale: chloroquine one gram, then 500 mg 6 hours later, then 500 mg at 24 and 48 hours AND primaquine 15 mg base qd for 14 days. Check for G-6-PD deficiency before starting primaquine.

P. vivax: chloroquine one gram, then 500 mg 6 hours later, then 500 mg at 24 and 48 hours AND primaquine 15 mg base qd for 14 days. Check for G-6-PD deficiency before starting primaquine.

Chloroquine resistance is increasing in SE Asia.

Prevention: (NEJM 2008 Review)

Start 1-2 weeks before travel and continuing weekly for 4 weeks after leaving. Applies to non pregnant adults only.

P. vivax, P. ovale, P. malariae, and chloroquine susceptible P. falciparum: chloroquine phosphate 500 mg (300 mg base) once weekly.

Chloroquine resistant P. falciparum: mefloquine 250 mg once weekly.


Resistance is increasing, especially in SE Asia where mefloquine resistance occurs.

It killed King Tut. Really.

And citronella with vanillin not only leads to a better smelling French car, but does prevent mosquito bites, just not as well as DEET (PubMed).

In Uganda blackwater fever, and acute intravascular hemolysis, fever, and dark or red urine, is a complication of recent or concurrent Plasmodium falciparum malaria infection in non-immune adults Africa. Associated with chloroquine it is making a comeback perhaps due to the use of artemisinin-based combination therapies (PubMed). No good deed ever goes unpunished.

I have heard it estimated half of everyone who has ever died, died of malaria. It's not true, but malaria is still an impressive killer (PubMed).

Malaria changes your breath to attract mosquitos ("infection correlates with significantly higher breath levels of 2 mosquito-attractant terpenes, α-pinene and 3-carene (PubMed)") and could be used to diagnose the disease using dogs or rats.

Curious Cases

Relevant links to my Medscape blog

Bad Air

Bad Air Redux

A True Story

Bad Air Re Re Duex Duex

Simple Disease, Complicated Infection

First World / Third World

African Roulette

Does he or doesn’t he? No hairdresser to ask.

Last update: 05/16/18