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A Study of Malaria and Sickle Cell Anemia

Malaria is a parasitic disease which is spread by the female Anopheles mosquitoes. There are about 2 million deaths from malaria each year, making it one of the world's deadliest diseases. Forty percent of the world's population is at risk of contracting malaria. Most of the fatal cases of malaria are in Sub-Saharan Africa, and most are children under the age of five or pregnant women. There are some areas where up to 40% of the children die of malaria when conditions are at their worst. The most effective prevention of malaria in children, as shown in a 1996 World Health Organization study, is protecting them from mosquito bites by having them sleep under bednets dipped in permethrin. In the WHO's pilot study in The Gambia, the death rate among children between birth and 5 years was reduced by 63% by this method.

Inside the human host, the malaria parasite first invades the liver cells and then the red blood cells. Disease is produced when the parasite is inside the red blood cells. When the parasite has matured inside the red blood cells, the cells burst, producing chills and a very high fever. The infected red blood cells and the burst blood cells can cause failure of the liver or the kidneys, hypoglycemia, or cerebral malaria which can include blocking the blood vessels carrying blood to the brain; these events may lead to death.

Malaria is an ancient disease; descriptions of its pathology are found in Hippocrates' writings. Through the millennium, the distribution of malaria in the world has changed. It is still a significant health problem in South and Central America as well as in Asia and Africa south of the Sahara. In earlier times, it was present in the Mediterranean countries, the Arabian Peninsula, and in India. It was present in the United States as far north as Baltimore at the time of the Civil War. Many soldiers from both the Union and Confederate armies died of malaria.

A Study of Malaria and Sickle Cell Anemia