Malaria is a treatable, infectious medical condition affecting almost half of the world’s population. Malaria is caused by the bite of an infected mosquito, which causes the malaria parasite to enter the victim’s bloodstream
Malaria treatment is generally successful and the high death rate from this disease is needless – infection can be prevented with the use of mosquito nets, medications, and testing.
Once an individual has been infected, via a bite, with malaria the parasites will reproduce in the liver and so enter the bloodstream where they continue to multiply. Eventually the affected blood cells will burst open and release more parasites and toxins into the blood stream. This action also produces more parasites to infect more blood cells, and so the cycle continues. The infected blood cells generally burst open simultaneously and it is this that causes the classic malarial symptoms of chills, muscle pain, headache, and fever
Quinine has long been associated with malaria treatment; however, this use has been declined in recent years due to the wide range of dangerous side effects it causes. Quinine is obtained from the bark of a South American tree called the cinchona tree and is known to relieve inflammation, pain, fever, and to relax the muscles – making it beneficial in the treatment of leg cramps as well as malaria.
Until the 1940’s quinine was the main, and best, malariatreatment – indeed quinine is generally perceived to be an anti-malarial drug treatment. Today it is still often used; however, there are other more preferred drug treatments available.
It is not clear how quinine treats a malaria infection – it is believed that the quinine collects in the lysosomes (or digestive tracts) of the parasitic cells, producing a toxic by product that then kills the parasite.
Successful malaria treatment using quinine will only occur during one of the stages of the parasitic lifestyle – this means that quinine therapy must be ongoing in order to avoid a flare up of symptoms.
The side effects of malaria treatment involving quinine include the condition of cinchonism. Once the quinine therapy has halted the symptoms should disappear – symptoms of this condition include –
Quinine is also known to increase the rate at which insulin is released from the pancreas – which may result in the development of hypoglycaemia.
Quinine may affect any other medication the individual is taking and reduce its effectiveness; it should not be taken by pregnant mothers, as it is known to increase the risk of both miscarriage and birth defects.
Whilst quinine may still be prescribed for the treatment of malaria it is no longer approved for any other uses, such as the treatment of persistent leg cramps, this is because the risks posed by this drug are greater than the benefits it provides. Before embarking on a course of quinine it is essential to ensure you are fully informed and to ask your medical practitioner about the risks involved, if you intend to supplement your quinine intake with tonic water you should also discuss this with your medical practitioner.
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