Four species of malaria parasites can infect humans under natural conditions: Plasmodium falciparum, P. vivax, P. ovale and P. malariae. The first two species cause the most infections worldwide. Plasmodium falciparum is the agent of severe, potentially fatal malaria, caus-ing an estimated 700,000 – 2.7 million deaths annually, most of them in young children in Africa.
Infection with malaria parasites may result in a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from ab-sent or very mild symptoms to severe disease and even death.
Malaria is transmitted in tropical and sub-tropical areas.
The highest transmission is found in Africa South of the Sahara.
Malaria is one of the most severe public health problems worldwide. It is a leading cause of death and disease in many developing countries where young children and pregnant women are the groups most affected.
According to the World Health Organization’s World Malaria Report 2005: -At the end of 2004, some 3.2 billion people lived in areas at risk of malaria transmission in 107 countries and territories. -Between 350 and 500 million clinical episodes of malaria occur every year. At least one million deaths occur every year due to malaria. About 60% of the cases of malaria worldwide and more than 80% of the malaria deaths worldwide occur in Africa south of the Sahara.