Malaria: Cooperation among Parasite, Vector, and Host

The malaria parasite requires specific human and mosquito tissues to complete its life cycle. Once inside a human, the parasite develops and multiplies, causing periodic bouts of flu-like symptoms, including fever, headache, and chills. The developing parasites destroy red blood cells, which may cause death by severe anemia as well as by the clogging of capillaries that supply the brain or other vital organs with blood. The deadliest of the four species of the parasite is Plasmodium falciparum, a species most likely to be transmitted by the mosquito Anopheles gambiae.

The genomes of humans, A. gambiae, and P. falciparum have recently been sequenced, and hopefully this information will point the way to new avenues of vaccination, treatment, or eradication of this disease. Click on the adjacent thumbnail for more information about the life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum within a mosquito and a human.