Malaria ParasitesAccording to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), about 1,500 cases of malaria are diagnosed in the United States each year. Most of the cases are in travelers and immigrants returning from regions such as sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia where malaria is prevalent.

Malaria is caused by a parasite which is transmitted through the bites of infected Anopheles mosquitoes. The four kinds of malaria parasites that infect humans are Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale, and P. malariae and of these, Plasmodium falciparum is the most dangerous. Once in the body, the parasites multiply in the liver and infect red blood cells.

One key question for which public health experts have had no satisfactory answer is whether getting rid of Plasmodium falciparum would cause other species of the parasite to affect humans. A study led by a researcher at the University of Maryland School of Medicine reports otherwise. The study, published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, found that there was very little chance that Plasmodium species that infect animals such as apes, birds and reptiles would jump over and infect humans too.

To discover how closely related the genes were and how long ago they had diverged from each other, the researchers reviewed hundreds of genes spread across five different species of Plasmodium. A new statistical approach was created to determine when Plasmodium species split off from one another. The new method uses molecular data from thousands of genes and is more reliable and faster than current methods.

Malaria affects millions of people worldwide. It can rapidly become severe and life-threatening. Proper diagnosis and treatment is therefore critical for effective disease management and surveillance. Malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) go a long way in improving the way the infection is managed. Take the FDA-approved QBC Malaria Test Kit. This fluorescence microscopy-based malaria diagnostic test offers improved visibility of malaria parasites for fast and sensitive detection of the disease. Fluorescence and centrifugation principles improve assessment and results are obtained in just 8 minutes.