Malaria is a life-threatening, non-contagious disease caused by a parasite transmitted through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. Parasites are small plants or animals that derive nutrients from other living creatures. Early-stage malaria symptoms are very similar to common flu. However, if left undiagnosed or untreated malaria infection can lead to life-threatening complications.
Although malaria does not spread like a common cold, it can spread among people by infected mosquitoes. The parasite infects the mosquitoes when they feed on the blood of an infected person. Once bitten by an infected mosquito, the mosquito releases parasites into the bloodstream of a healthy person that eventually multiplies in the red blood cells, causing ill health.
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Malaria blood tests like malaria blood smear and rapid diagnostic tests look for the presence of these infectious parasites in the blood. This article takes you through everything about blood tests done for malaria infections.
Blood test for Malaria: What is it?
Malaria is a serious form of a parasitic infection that can cause life-threatening complications if left undiagnosed or untreated. It is more prominent in mosquito breeding areas, especially the tropical and subtropical regions. Statistics have shown that millions of people are infected with malaria, and malaria has led to death among many of them.
Malaria is curable if diagnosed and treated early. Undiagnosed or untreated malaria can lead to organ failure and internal haemorrhage/ bleeding. Malaria tests help detect malaria, its severity, and the type of malarial parasite infection.
Some of the blood tests for malaria include:
- Malaria Blood smear test: It is one of the most common tests for malaria where the lab technician smears the blood sample over the glass slide and is stained to be viewed under a microscope. However, the parasite number changes every day, and sometimes, blood tests done early may not show detectable parasite numbers. Repeated blood tests every 24 hours for two to three days can ensure an accurate diagnosis.
- Malaria Rapid diagnostic test (RDT): It is also known as antigen testing, which is a quick testing option for malaria, involving a test strip that changes colour. The colour change can only indicate whether or not the malaria parasite is present and does not tell the species of malaria parasite causing the infection. This test is done when a blood smear test cannot be done. However, the antigen test needs to be followed by a blood smear test to confirm a diagnosis.
- Malaria test by PCR: Molecular testing for malaria is done by polymerase chain reaction or PCR test. This test can help identify the type of parasite and helps decide the line of treatment for the infection. This test is ideal when the parasite numbers are low or when the blood smear test results are unclear.
- Antibody test: Malaria test name for antibodies- immunofluorescence and Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) can help detect antibodies against the malarial parasite present in the blood. These tests check if a person has previously had a malaria infection based on the antibodies in the blood post-infection.
- Drug resistance test: Certain species of malaria parasites are resistant to drugs. Drug resistance tests for malaria help doctors check which medicine can better treat malaria infection.
- Other blood tests: Other malaria tests include liver and kidney function tests to help find if the malarial infection has affected liver and kidney functions. These tests are required to determine if the patient has anaemia or not.
Why is a malaria test done?
Malaria tests are recommended if the doctor suspects a malaria infection based on the symptoms. If you have travelled to regions where malaria infection is common and have developed malaria symptoms, you might need a blood test to check for malaria. The malaria symptoms usually develop within 14 days of a parasite infection. However, sometimes, symptoms show up as early as seven days or as long as a year. Early stage malaria symptoms similar to common flu are:
- High fever followed by chills
- Extreme weakness or fatigue,
- Severe body aches,
- Vomiting or nausea.
Here are some symptoms common during the later stages of malaria infection:
- Persistent high fever,
- Jaundice- yellowing of skin, nails, and eyes,
- Bloody stools,
- Confusion and concentration difficulties.
You will need to consult your physician for the presence of one or more of the above symptoms. Your physician will guide you with the necessary diagnostic tests and treatment.
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What can you expect during a malaria test?
Initially, your health care specialist will check for malaria signs and symptoms with a detailed review of your medical and travel history. If the physician suspects a possible malaria infection, you may undergo a malaria blood test- blood smear test or rapid malaria diagnostic test.
During the blood test, the lab technician will withdraw a certain amount of blood sample from the vein in the arm. The blood smear test looks for possible parasites in the blood smeared over the slide. And the rapid diagnostic tests look for proteins or antigens typically secreted by the parasites, indicating their presence. However, the blood smear test confirms the malaria diagnosis.
Malaria test result interpretation
The turnaround time of the malaria test is usually within 24 hours of the test. The malaria test result can present one of the below possibilities.
What if the test result is negative: If the blood smear test and the antigen tests are negative and you have malaria symptoms, your physician may order a retest. The number of parasites changes daily, and a blood test every 24 hours for 2-3 days is required to confirm a diagnosis.
What if the test result is positive: If the blood smear tests and the antigen test turn positive, your physician will move ahead with other malaria blood tests- drug resistant test, antibody test, or molecular tests to prescribe medications depending on factors like the severity of the disease, pregnancy, and other associated conditions.
Causes Of Malaria:
Malaria, one of the common viral diseases, is caused due to the transmission of the Plasmodium parasite from one person to another through the bite of infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. When an individual gets bitten by an infected mosquito, the parasite will enter the blood, travel to the liver, multiply & mature. These mature parasites continue to multiply and invade RBCs, leading to Malaria symptoms & other complications. Some of the major causes of Malaria include:
- Mosquito Bites: Being bitten by an infected mosquito is one of the common causes of malaria infection. It is the primary mode of transmission of the infection that can lead to complications if left unaddressed.
- Infected Blood Transfusion: If infected blood is transfused to a healthy person, it can also transmit the infection and cause malaria fever.
- From Mother To Child: Malaria can also be transmitted to an unborn child from an infected mother during pregnancy or childbirth. Doctors often suggest certain tests to check for malaria fever in pregnant women to provide appropriate measures to safeguard both mother-to-be and baby.
Remember, Malaria is very much preventable & treatable. You only need a proactive approach, timely diagnosis, and correct preventive measures to ease the symptoms and manage the condition. Therefore, if your doctor has suspected any symptoms of Malaria and suggested a Malaria Test, getting tested in time should be your foremost responsibility. Delaying the diagnosis can only worsen the symptoms, leading to complications.
Malaria Prevention Tips That You Should Be Aware Of:
Prevention is better than cure and is not an overstatement. Being more proactive about your situation and taking preventive measures in time can make a difference in your condition and help you manage the disease better. So, here are some general preventive tips that can reduce your risk of malaria infection. Such tips are:
- Use Mosquito Nets: Every small step count! Start using mosquito nets to minimize your risk of mosquito bites, especially at night. Preventing mosquito bite is the foremost step to keeping yourself safe, and the use of mosquito nets help you obtain it.
- Wear Protective Clothing: Another factor that can help prevent Malaria infection, its spread, and complications linked with it is keeping yourself covered. Wearing full-sleeve clothes can minimize your skin exposure to the bite, reduce your risk of infection, and keep you safe to a possible extent. So, especially during the season when malaria infection is on the rise, it is advisable to wear full-sleeve shirts, full pants, etc., to minimize exposed skin.
- Apply Insect Repellent: Using the right mosquito repellent as per your skin type is another factor that can minimize the risk of a mosquito bite, keep you safe and reduce your likelihood of getting infected.
- Eliminate Breeding Sites: Standing water is the breeding ground of mosquitoes that causes Malaria, dengue, chikungunya, and more. Therefore, if you see any standing water in and around your home or workplace area, eliminate it to reduce the breeding site and spread of the infection.
- Seek Early Diagnosis: Individuals with symptoms suggestive of Malaria Fever should take early Malaria Screening seriously to confirm or rule out their risks. Prompt attention to the signs can prevent you from severities and help you obtain the correct course of treatment in time.
- Get Treatment: If the diagnosis is confirmed, it is advisable to complete the course of treatment as suggested by your healthcare provider. It helps speed up your recovery and minimize your risks of developing complications.
Pregnant Women should take extra preventive measures, as the disease can spread to their unborn baby and cause severe complications.
All these are general safety guidelines that you should comply with in your treatment course, following your healthcare provider’s suggestions. Remember that prevention is the key that can help you avoid most of the problems. So, be proactive, follow all the prevention advisories, and stay safe. Also, if your doctor has prescribed the test, book a Malaria Blood Test with Redcliffe Labs today.
Also Read: If you want to know more about the Malaria Test, Price, Range, Preparations & Procedure, give this blog a quick read.
What are Blood Tests for Malaria used for?
Malaria Blood Tests or Blood Tests for Malaria significantly support the diagnosis of Malaria. Different types of parasites are responsible for causing malaria fever in humans, and these tests help determine which type you have been infected with. Identifying the actual cause of the infection help doctors prescribe appropriate treatment or preventive measures to cure the condition & control symptoms better.
A blood test for Malaria can indicate:
- It looks for the malaria parasite in the blood
- The test helps in identifying the type of malaria parasite causing the infection
- Also, it checks if the condition is caused due to parasites resistant to certain medications
- It also helps to detect the severity of the infection & related complications (if any)
Getting tested, as suggested by your doctor, is also critical to help control the spread of the disease further. So, if you have symptoms related to malaria infection, getting tested in time is vital to get rid of the parasites, obtain the right treatment and improve overall health.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are malaria tests associated with any risks?
Malaria tests are routine blood tests involving no major risks or side effects. However, one may observe slight pain or bruise at the site of injection (needle prick) that goes away with time.
2. How do you confirm malaria?
A blood smear or rapid diagnostic test can help with an initial diagnosis of malaria. However, blood smear tests can confirm the presence of malarial parasites.
3. What are the types of malarial parasites that infect humans?
Five types of malarial parasites can infect humans to cause illness. They are:
- Plasmodium falciparum (P. falciparum)
- Plasmodium malaria (P. malariae)
- Plasmodium vivax (P. vivax)
- Plasmodium ovale (P. ovale)
- Plasmodium knowlesi (P. knowlesi)
Malaria is a parasite-borne disease transmitted through mosquitoes. Malaria causes symptoms that are quite similar to the common flu. The malaria test price differs between cities and diagnostic labs. The approximate cost for a malaria test can range from Rs. to Rs. 1,000 based on the type of malaria test and the pathology lab.
If you notice malaria symptoms or have travelled to regions where malaria is common, consult your health care provider for a malaria check-up and treatment. Remember, malaria can be cured or treated when detected early. Early detection can avert health complications and life-threatening conditions.