Although malaria transmission usually occurs through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito, it can also occur through contact with infected blood. The disease may also be transmitted from a mother to her fetus before or during delivery.
How Is Malaria Transmitted?
This disease is usually transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. Less commonly, it may occur through contact with infected blood.
Malaria is not transmitted from person to person like the common cold or the flu. You cannot get the disease from casual contact with infected people.
Transmitting Malaria Through Mosquito Bites
Malaria transmission most often occurs through the bite of an Anopheles mosquito. No other types of mosquitoes are known to transmit this disease. This type of mosquito becomes infected with one of the four Plasmodium parasites that cause malaria in humans, through a previous blood meal from an infected person.
Understanding How Transmission Occurs
When an Anopheles mosquito bites an infected person, a small amount of blood infected with microscopic malaria parasites is taken. The parasite grows and matures in the mosquito's gut for a week or more, then travels to the mosquito's salivary glands. When the mosquito next takes a blood meal, these parasites mix with the saliva, are injected with the bite, and the transmission of malaria is complete.
Once in the blood, the parasites travel to the liver and enter liver cells, to grow and multiply. After as few as seven days or as long as several years, the parasites leave the liver cells and enter red blood cells, which normally carry oxygen in the blood to tissues that need it.
Once in the red blood cells, the malaria parasites continue to grow and multiply. After they mature, the infected red blood cells rupture, freeing the parasites to attack and enter other red blood cells. Toxins released when the red cells burst are what cause the typical symptoms of malaria, such as:
- Flu-like symptoms.
If a mosquito bites this infected person and ingests certain types of malaria parasites, the malaria transmission cycle continues.