Malaria

  • Medical Author:
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP

    Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.

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How do physicians diagnose malaria?

The symptoms of malaria can mimic many other diseases, including influenza or a viral syndrome. It is therefore important to inquire about a history of recent travel to an endemic area or other possible exposures.

The definite diagnosis is made by looking at the blood of an infected patient under the microscope (blood smear) and identifying the presence of the parasite. The patients' blood is prepared under a slide with a specific stain to help identify the parasite. This is the most widely performed and accepted test.

Rapid diagnostic tests (antigen tests) are available that can give the diagnosis in a few minutes. It is recommended that a positive test is followed with a blood smear examination.

What is the treatment for malaria?

Besides supportive care, the medical team needs to decide on the appropriate antibiotics to treat malaria. The choice will depend on several factors, including

  • the specific species of parasite identified,
  • the severity of symptoms,
  • determination of drug resistance based on the geographic area where the patient traveled.

Physicians will administer the medication in pill form or as an intravenous antibiotic depending on above factors.

The most commonly used medications are

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/21/2015

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