Suppose a female Anopheles infected with Plasmodium bites someone and transmits Plasmodium to their body.

Can that person's immune system be strong enough that it can kill the Plasmodium before it starts entering into red blood cells to rupture them?

  • $\begingroup$ There appear to be some references here: bio.davidson.edu/people/sosarafova/Assets/Bio307/ruturakhia/… $\endgroup$
    – blep
    Feb 12, 2013 at 19:07
  • $\begingroup$ The short answer is yes, at least with P. falciparum. Even if they're not taking anti-malarials, not everyone who gets bitten by an infected mosquito becomes symptomatic (I don't know about RBC entry, that may happen too quickly). Unfortunately I don't have the references handy, which is why this isn't a formal answer, but this information came from a professor studying the immune evasion techniques of the parasite. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Feb 12, 2013 at 19:46
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo hmm!. I always tell my friends who curse the medical science to not to eat anti malarial tablets when they get malaria. I tell them that one infected with malaria will 100% die if they don't eat antimalarial tablets which is a medical science creation. so MattDmo am I right when I say that to support medical science to my friends who it. I mean if malarial patient doesn't take antimalaria, will he die? $\endgroup$
    – kashif
    Feb 12, 2013 at 20:01
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo why don't you answer it instead of adding comments. I want to upvote you for this answer that I can't unless you answer it $\endgroup$
    – kashif
    Feb 12, 2013 at 20:07

1 Answer 1


The experience of a former adviser of mine was that some people who are not taking anti-malarial medication can still resist infection with Plasmodium falciparum, one of the parasites responsible for malaria. The parasite's life cycle includes stages inside the Anopheles sp. mosquito, and they are transmitted to human host via the female mosquito's saliva when she bites to have a blood meal:

Plasmodium life cycle

(from Wikimedia)

There is currently a great deal of research going on to understand the biology of the parasite and how it typically evades the immune system so well. Proteins expressed by the parasite can undergo antigenic variation, meaning that different forms are expressed at different stages of the life cycle, and just as the immune system may be forming a response to one version, it is down-regulated and another takes its place. This is one reason why making a vaccine has proved to be so difficult, as unlike the influenza virus, for example, a single strain of Plasmodium can alter its immunogenic appearance and escape antigen-specific immune responses.

While malaria is responsible for a high degree of morbidity - sickness - it is not necessarily fatal except in some cases, frequently when the victims are young, already ill, or are otherwise immune-compromised, or when the infection moves to the central nervous system and the brain. I can't speak from personal experience (fortunately!), but I have been told by numerous friends that malaria is something you want to avoid at all costs. The sickness can last for weeks in some cases, and apparently is quite debilitating at its worst. Brain fever can be deadly, and in many third-world countries and among the poor the lack of good medical care can lead to complications. There is the additional factor that the family has to care for the sick, and if the ill person is a wage-earner that can mean the difference between food on the table and going hungry.

So, your friends are not going to die (probably) if they don't take their tablets, but there is no reason not to take them unless you have strong side-effects, and in that case the doctor may be able to find you another one. Other common-sense measures include always sleeping with a bed net, putting screens in windows, covering exposed skin during active mosquito hours, wearing repellant if available, and eliminating places where standing water can collect, stagnate, and provide a breeding area for mosquitoes.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This paper estimates the mortality rate of untreated malaria as 1.8% (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3021416). The lifetime cost in terms of protracted illness are not considered. There's a good reason that antimalarials are useful and worth taking in the future. If you haven't taken them before, that's another thing. $\endgroup$
    – shigeta
    Feb 13, 2013 at 15:38

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .