The malaria parasite at a glance
Quick notes on the malaria parasite
Plasmodium is a tiny, single-celled parasite that infects
Human malaria is caused by four species of the Plasmodium
parasite: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale and P.
The four species causing human malaria differ morphologically,
immunologically, in geographical distribution, in relapse pattern
and in drug response.
P. falciparum causes the most serious disease.
The most common malaria parasite is P. vivax. Infections are
Least common is P. ovale, which is restricted to West Africa and
also produces a mild illness.
P. malariae is found in isolated places scattered across the
globe, and while it causes severe fever, it is usually not life
Species of the Plasmodium parasite are also found in primates,
rodents, bats and other mammals, birds and reptiles.
P. falciparum is thought to have evolved about 7000 years ago,
the era of the dawn of agriculture in Africa.