Under the Scope: Severe Malaria

in STEMGeeks2 years ago (edited)

         Some of the most interesting blood smears I've seen involve parasites. In particular, patients with malaria. Malaria is not a thing in Utah, so the patients acquired it somewhere else. The most common cause is from traveling to certain endemic regions in Africa.

         Some, despite having "recovered", suffer relapses every now and then. For the most part, the percent parasitemia in their blood is low. I'm talking about <1%. There were the occasional patient undergoing crisis with 4-5% parasitemia. I could count the number of patients with that condition on one hand throughout my career.

         And then, there exist cases where I never thought I would see in my state.

         These are what the thin smears of a patient with severe malaria look like. If you zoom in on the pictures, you could see the malarial parasite. Given their ring form, I would suspect they are Plasmodium falciparum. But, it's not my place to speciate as that task belongs to the pathologist. I regret to inform you that I did not get a good shot at the thick smears.

         For context, we estimated percent parasitemia around 38%.

         When my coworker and I looked at the slides, we thought someone was trolling us. Alas, it was real. The patient was in Sierra Leone prior to her eventual admittance to the hospital. It was unknown whether she didn't take proper precautions while in that region. She most likely didn't.

         Needless to say, the patient was dying. As for treatment, there are lots of information out there on the CDC website. I'm willing to bet that she had blood transfusions as well. There was no way she could survive with almost half of her RBCs nulled by the parasites.

         When it comes to lab work, the more interesting results you get, the greater the patient suffers. It's a mixed feeling one would have to come to term with.

         I never knew what happened to this patient. However, there is a moral to this story. Always take proper precautions when traveling to a foreign destination. Many people living in developed nations aren't aware of the risks in certain regions. They think they could do without or not follow recommendations. In fact, they think they know better.

         In some respect, it makes me marvel at the progress we've made to overcome some of these challenges. In another, I can't fathom living at a time before the medical advances we have today. Then, there are those who fight the current advancements. They do that while living under the protective bubble made by the said progress. That's topic for another day.

         Stay safe out there.

Posted with STEMGeeks


Malaria is like a piece of cake around here. I just treated malaria less than a week ago even though the test conducted was only qualitative, not quantitative. I do not know if she will be ok with that percentage.

 2 years ago 

Even if she survived, I can't imagine the permanent damage she's received.

A sad story. And a cautionary tale.

 2 years ago 

Indeed. Even if she did survive, I can't imagine the aftereffects.

Fascinating and tragic. From what I understand tonic water came about as a result of Malaria. I was doing research on chloroquine early in the pandemic and found out about the history of quinine. Chloroquine also works against malaria correct?

 2 years ago 

It's one of the drugs used to treat malaria.

But, drug resistance is a thing.

They do that while living under the protective bubble made by the said progress.


I look forward to this post :-)

 2 years ago 

Not high on the priority at the moment.

I’m assuming the pink “dots” are red blood cells… so the parasite is the purple. I can see purple rings on the “cells” or whatever they are… crazy stuff!!

 2 years ago 

Yup. The purple rings inside the red blood cells are the parasites.

So the purple splotches floating around haven’t attached yet?

 2 years ago 

Nah, those are just artifacts from the stain.

I see, it’s like overspray when you are spray painting. Lol. The closer I look I can see more and more circles on those cells. That’s some crazy stuff!! I gotta show my wife. Lol

Didn't realized I missed this post, well I kinda missed a lot of posts on Hive for the past few days as everything in the other life keeps me occupied. Damn that classic look on the smears. We have cases like that on a seldom basis with history of travel but not anymore due to pandemic travel restrictions. Speaking of communicable disease, if you decide to travel in Asia, best to check which regions have tuberculosis, the more 3rd world it sounds the most likely you'll get one. Anyone can have it asymptomatic and I probably have it without any gross signs and symptoms on conventional tests. But for people not growing up at these parts, they'll feel it in their system if they stick too long.

 2 years ago 

Ahh TB. I’ll keep that in mind.

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