Plasmodium falciparum

Common symptoms of malaria include:

  • fever
  • shivering
  • joint pain
  • vomiting
  • anaemia
  • convulsions

Severe malaria caused by P. falciparum can progress extremely quickly and lead to:

  • severe brain damage
  • cognitive impairments - especially in children
  • enlarged liver and/or spleen
  • severe headache
  • cerebral ischemia (lack of adequate blood flow)
  • low blood sugar
  • renal failure
  • coma
  • death - young children and pregnant women are especially vulnerable

Museum scientists are running a project in Uganda, aiming to:

  • better understand disease distribution in rural villages better
  • promote the distribution of bed-nets and treatment availability
  • understand the relationship between malaria and other tropical diseases

Species detail

  • Malaria distribution map

    Malaria affects the lives of millions of people. Find out where.

  • Plasmodium falciparum life cycle

    P. falciparum travels from mosquitoes to humans and back again when the mosquito takes a blood meal. Find out more about the parasite’s life in its hosts.

  • Family receiving drugs to treat malaria

    Find out how malaria can be diagnosed and treated.


Plasmodium falciparum

Ring stage of Plasmodium falciparum in human red blood cells.

Plasmodium falciparum

Plasmodium falciparum, ring-stage parasite and a white blood cell.

Plasmodium falciparum

A blood smear containing a macro- and microgametocyte of the Plasmodium falciparum parasite.

Anopheles albimanus

Female Anopheles albimanus mosquito.

About the author

Jose Carlos de Sousa Figueiredo

Former Postgraduate Research Assistant
Department of Zoology

A word from the author

"Plasmodium falciparum causes the deadliest of all forms of malaria - cerebral malaria. Although it has been vastly studied, treatment is far from absolute, and a vaccine is nothing but a dream. This fairly simple life-form has a very complex natural history and this has fascinated scientists worldwide."

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