Malaria is a leading public health problem in tropical and subtropical countries of the world. In 2019, there were an estimated 229 million malaria cases and 409, 000 deaths due malaria in the world. The objective of this chapter is to discuss about the different Plasmodium parasites that cause human malaria. In addition, the chapter discusses about antimalarial drugs resistance. Human malaria is caused by five Plasmodium species, namely P. falciparum, P. malariae, P. vivax, P. ovale and P. knowlesi. In addition to these parasites, malaria in humans may also arise from zoonotic malaria parasites, which includes P. inui and P. cynomolgi. The plasmodium life cycle involves vertebrate host and a mosquito vector. The malaria parasites differ in their epidemiology, virulence and drug resistance pattern. P. falciparum is the deadliest malaria parasite that causes human malaria. P. falciparum accounted for nearly all malarial deaths in 2018. One of the major challenges to control malaria is the emergence and spread of antimalarial drug-resistant Plasmodium parasites. The P. vivax and P. falciparum have already developed resistance against convectional antimalarial drugs such as chloroquine, sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine, and atovaquone. Chloroquine-resistance is connected with mutations in pfcr. Resistance to Sulfadoxine and pyrimethamine is associated with multiple mutations in pfdhps and pfdhfr genes. In response to the evolution of drug resistance Plasmodium parasites, artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) have been used for the treatment of uncomplicated falciparum malaria since the beginning of 21th century. However, artemisinin resistant P. falciparum strains have been recently observed in different parts of the world, which indicates the possibility of the spread of artemisinin resistance to all over the world. Therefore, novel antimalarial drugs have to be searched so as to replace the ACTs if Plasmodium parasites develop resistance to ACTs in the future.
Part of the book: Plasmodium Species and Drug Resistance