- A deadly mosquito-transmitted disease that still kills millions each year -

Summary: Malaria (from the Italian word for bad air, mal'aria) is a deadly disease transmitted by mosquitoes. Malaria still significantly impacts human health worldwide but also has an interesting history.

Jack DeAngelis, PhD
OSU Ext. Entomologist (ret.)

Mosquitoes can transmit a number of deadly diseases when they bite. Historically, the most important mosquito-borne diseases have been malaria, filariasis and viruses such as yellow fever, dengue and West Nile fever. Malaria still contributes to high death rates in developing countries and to global poverty. West Nile fever has, in recent years, generated a lot of concern in the US.

Malaria is caused by a protozoan parasite called a plasmodium. The parasite infects red blood cells causing a relapsing fever. During the parasite's life cycle certain stages attack the liver. Death from malaria is often caused by liver failure.

Until relatively recently, quinine was the only medicine for the treatment of malaria and was produced from the bark of the cinchoa tree. The books below are accounts of the natural history of mosquitoes and the historical search for a source of quinine in the tropical rain forests of South America. Synthetic drugs have now largely replaced quinine for the treatment of malaria.

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CDC - Malaria Web Site

mosquito adults (linedrawing)
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