Malaria: A focused review for the emergency medicine clinician

Brit Long, Austin MacDonald, Stephen Y. Liang, William J. Brady, Alex Koyfman, Michael Gottlieb, Summer Chavez

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction: Malaria is a potentially fatal parasitic disease transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. A resurgence in locally acquired infections has been reported in the U.S. Objective: This narrative review provides a focused overview of malaria for the emergency clinician, including the epidemiology, presentation, diagnosis, and management of the disease. Discussion: Malaria is caused by Plasmodium and is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. Disease severity can range from mild to severe. Malaria should be considered in any returning traveler from an endemic region, as well as those with unexplained cyclical, paroxysms of symptoms or unexplained fever. Patients most commonly present with fever and rigors but may also experience cough, myalgias, abdominal pain, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. Hepatomegaly, splenomegaly, pallor, and jaundice are findings associated with malaria. Although less common, severe malaria is precipitated by microvascular obstruction with complications of anemia, acidosis, hypoglycemia, multiorgan failure, and cerebral malaria. Peripheral blood smears remain the gold standard for diagnosis, but rapid diagnostic tests are available. Treatment includes specialist consultation and antimalarial drugs tailored depending on chloroquine resistance, geographic region of travel, and patient comorbidities. Supportive care may be required, and patients with severe malaria will require resuscitation. Most patients will require admission for treatment and further monitoring. Conclusion: Emergency medicine clinicians should be aware of the presentation, diagnosis, evaluation, and management of malaria to ensure optimal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-16
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Mar 2024


  • Anopheles
  • Infectious disease
  • Malaria
  • Mosquito
  • Plasmodium
  • Returning traveler
  • Vector


Dive into the research topics of 'Malaria: A focused review for the emergency medicine clinician'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this