Invertebrate Phyla: Protista

A very common invertebrate, mosquitoes, have caused death to over 200 million people each year. What makes these insects so deadly is a single-celled parasitic protist that causes malaria in these insects. This parasite is called Plasmodium falciparum  and there are 4 other species vivax, ovale, falciparum, and malariae) that infect humans. These parasites need to be fully developed in the mosquitoes in order to develop in the human.

What is a Protist?

Protists are Eukaryotic single-celled organisms with active organelles like a central nucleus and a mitochondria. There are two classifications of this organism- protozoa -which can only divide within a host organism and prostists . Protists can either be photosynthetic or hetertrophic. Heterotrophic protists include Phagotrophs and Osmotrophs. Most protists reproduce asexually, which include binary and multiple fission.

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“OSC Microbio apical” By: Wikimedia Commons under CC by 2.0


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“A female acquiring a blood meal from its human host”  by CNIC under CC by 2.0

Anopheles mosquito is the primary vector for this deadly disease. The female insects take blood meals from humans in order for egg production to occur.

Development of the parasite in the mosquito:

  • Undergoes the gametocyte stage to the sporozite stage
  • High temperatures and humidity increases the parasite growth
  • Spends 10-18 days in the final sporogonic cycle

After full successful development of the parasite, the malaria transmission cycle begins (This example specific to Liver Cells)

  • During the blood meal from the human hosts, sporozoires are injected into the human
  • When infecting liver cells, the sporozoites go through Exo-erythrocytic (hpatic) cycle in which they infect the cells and develop schizonts. They release merozoites into the blood stream
  • The Merozoites develop into male or female and the cycle continues

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Malaria-Endemic Countries”  By: Wikimedia Commons under CC by 2.0

The facts:

Malaria is not spread from person to person (excluding pregnancy)

There is a seven to thirty day incubation period where you may not see any signs or symptoms.

Two Types:

Uncomplicated– Headaches, fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, weakness

Complicated- (When multiple body systems are under attack)  Kidney Failure, severe anemia (red blood cells being destructed), seizures, cardiovascular attack, Low blood sugar

“Malaria Attack” is described as 6-12 hour period of shivering, fever and headaches

To diagnose malaria, blood is looked at through a microscope and the presence of the parasite is identified. The treatment is based on factors including how severe the symptoms are, the specific parasite, and where the patient contracted the parasite. Antibiotics are administered based on your symptoms.

Social Injustice

There have been 214 million new cases of malaria just in 2015, and 480,000 people have died because of this disease. In Sub-Saharan Africa there have been 90% of overall malaria deaths. Malaria is referred to as “an epidemic of the poor” This is due to poverty, slow growth in economy in the country, and lack of resources they have available. In poor economies, they lack barriers that are used to to prevent mosquitoes. Preventative measures such as medications and immunizations are harder to come by in rural countries, therefore making malaria more prevalent. There are extreme amount of funding for cancer and other diseases around the world. Funds from the government need to be granted to these regions in need to lower the mortality rate of this deathly disease.

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“Malaria Patient” by flickr under CC by 2.0

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“Malaria Blood Test” by flickr under CC by 2.0







2 thoughts on “The Deadliest Single-Celled Protist

  1. Thanks for this interesting post on malaria! What do you think we might be able to do to start shifting the funding imbalance for this disease? I would love to know about any organizations out there that are working on this. Maybe connect with them on twitter?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think that the data and evidence (even though the evidence is pretty clear with the millions of people that are dying) should be gathered and brought to the government of allied countries and try to come up funds to help. Also more awareness needs to be brought to this issue because I feel like everyone knows about malaria but nothing is done. The United Nations foundation, UNICEF, and The World Health Organization are a few that are working on this issue. I also think America and our government should step in and help because of the abundant amount of resources that are available to us.

      Liked by 1 person

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