India World

RARE type of malaria case detected in South India’s Kerala state

A solider in Kerala’s Kannur district was identified with a rare type of malaria, a year after he arrived from Sudan where he was part of the peace keeping operation.

The soldier believed to be in his 40’s is suppose to have contracted the Plasmodium ovale, a type of malaria caused by a bite from a female Anopheles mosquito, during his time in Sudan.

The common types of  malaria found in India are usually more severe such as Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax.

“The jawan(soldier) had returned to India from Sudan in January this year and was in Delhi. A month ago, he came to Kerala and shortly after, he began experiencing fever and other symptoms. When we tested him for Covid-19, the reports came back negative,” said Dr Rajeevan, medical superintendent at the district hospital in Kannur where he was treated.

“Since he had come from Delhi, we decided to test him for malaria. And on the slide, we could see the parasite inside the red blood cell sample. In Kerala, we usually see malaria types like Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. So we did a rapid antigen test to detect the strain and we found that it was negative for both types. When we investigated further, we diagnosed it as Plasmodium ovale.”

Dr Rajeevan said it was possible for the parasite to remain in the spleen or liver of the human body for a long time, even years, after the mosquito bite and become symptomatic later. That is what could have happened in this case.

Being a mosquito-borne disease, human to human transmission of malaria is impossible, but the disease has the potential to spread through a vector.

The state health department activated its preventive measures in accordance with the protocol laid out to prevent the spread of the disease.

“After his arrival in Kerala, he was in quarantine and therefore did not have public exposure. The chance of spread was low. We were also able to make a quick diagnosis,” said Dr Rajeevan.

The soldier made full recovery and was discharged from the hospital this week.