Mosquitoes can attack your heart
: heart attack, malaria, mosquitoes, vivax parasite
People have been plagued by malaria since time
immemorial and just when the medical fraternity thought they knew all
there was to know about the disease, a new strain comes up that throws
all theories out of gear.
Recently, in Mumbai, seven cases of the malarial parasite
vivax came to light where the patients suffered heart attacks without a
prior history of heart disease. Though it is too early for a definitive
prognosis, doctors are alarmed and the medical fraternity agrees that
the heart attacks were not mere coincidences.
Dr Saurabh Goel, Interventional Cardiologist at Cumballa
Hill Hospital & Heart Institute, Mumbai, explains, “Traditionally,
vivax has been the milder malaria. But this year the vivax parasite
seems to have mutated and we are seeing a more aggressive variety which
is affecting the heart. The probability is that the clotting system gets
deranged by the vivax as the parasite inhabits the red blood cells.
Thus, there have been instances where people without heart disease are
getting clots in their arteries leading to complications and cases of
heart attacks have also been seen.”
The twist in the tale, however, comes from Dr Pahlajani,
Head of Cardiology at Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai. “In all these years
I have only seen two cases where a full blown heart attack occurred
because of malaria. This year a person came in and we discovered that he
had a bad case of malaria that had affected his liver, his brain and
his kidneys which happens in severe cases of malaria, but during
treatment we found that his heart was also affected.”
Commenting on the mutant vivax he says, “The virulent form
of vivax could be because the parasite has become chloroquine
(anti-malarial drug) resistant. Maybe the mosquitoes are getting
resistant to the DDT pesticide (used in malaria control). It is a big
public health issue and needs to be tackled on a war footing by the
Know the enemy
Approach your doctor at the first sign of fever or other symptoms, even those that you may not associate with malaria.
Do not self-medicate or wait for the symptoms to subside.
This may result in a more severe infection and / or complications that
might require hospitalisation.
Once treatment has begun, make sure that you complete the
duration of treatment and not discontinue when feeling a “little
A negative blood report does not rule out malaria. If the
clinical pathology fits the medical profile, treatment should be given.
* Why is malaria on the rise this year?
Malaria in our country is endemic but given the present situation there
seems to be a danger of it turning into an epidemic. Rapid urbanisation,
high population density, poor personal and social hygiene are the known
factors responsible for excessive mosquito breeding. Aiding the high
incidence this year are incessant rain, (in cities like Mumbai),
humidity, water collections on construction sites and inadequate fogging
and mosquito control.
* How does one get malaria?
When the female anopheles mosquito bites an infected person, its blood
gets infected with malarial parasites. When it bites another person, it
transmits the malarial parasites through its saliva into the person.
* What are the types of malaria?
Of the four types of malarial parasites commonly found, we mainly see
the vivax (traditionally milder) and the falciparum (serious form that
affects the liver, kidneys and brain) in India. The ovale and malariae
types are normally not seen here.
* What happens to the parasite once it enters our body?
The parasite first travels to the liver and within a period of six to 15
days multiplies. When the host cells rupture, the parasites enter the
blood stream and infect the red blood cells. There they start
multiplying once more, causing malaria.
* What are the symptoms of malaria?
Typically, periodic fevers with shaking chills are the symptoms of
malaria. Other symptoms include headaches, bodyache, unexplained
lethargy and a runny tummy. Both vivax and falciparum have the same
* What is the treatment?
Anti-malarial drugs work in milder cases of malaria. When the infection
is severe and complications arise, hospitalisation may be required.
* What are the preventive measures?
Preventive measures include good personal hygiene and using mosquito
repellants. Fogging (spraying of pesticides in mosquito-infested areas),
preventing the pooling of water and keeping the surrounding environs