Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum) is one of the species that belongs to the genus Plasmodium. It is a protozoan parasite that causes malaria in humans. What's more, P. falciparum causes the most dangerous form of malaria, known as malignant or falciparum malaria. Malaria is the most significant parasitic disease of humans, and has the highest mortality rates and complication rates. It causes death of more children than any other infectious disease world widely. In the year 2015, as reported by World Health Organization (WHO), about 214 million people were infected by malaria and about 438,000 of them were dead. Malaria can be caused by six malarial parasites, P. falciparum is one of them and causes the most-often fatal and medically severe form of disease.
Fig. 1 Blood smear from a P. falciparum culture.
P. falciparum is transmitted by the female Anopheles mosquito. Plasmodium sporozoites are released from the salivary glands of the mosquito and then enter the blood circulatory system. They invade liver cells (hepatocytes) in a very short time. Sporozoites that still remain in the circulatory system will be eliminated by immune system in 30 min. The liver-stage parasites differentiate and perform asexual reproduction, producing 40,000 merozoites or even more. These merozoities burst from the hepatocyte and spread in blood circulatory system without causing any symptoms. Trophozoites of P. falciparum develop sticky knobs in red blood cells, and then then adhere to endothelial cells in blood vessels. The mature forms of P. falciparum change the surface properties of infected red blood cells, and causing their sticking to blood vessel walls. Obstruction of the microcirculation is achieved through this way and further lead to dysfunction of multiple organs.
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