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An animation that shows the life cycle of the plasmodia that cause malaria as they move from host to host, transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes


Although mosquitoes are implicated in the transmission of deadly diseases, the diseases themselves are the result of plasmodia that the mosquitoes carry from victim to victim as they continue to seek their blood meals. Plasmodia (the plural from of plasmodium) are microscopic, one-celled animals, like amoebas or paramecia. They are parasites that depend on their hosts (either the mosquito or a human or animal) to live. In this kind of symbiotic relationship, the parasite benefits at the expense of the host.

There are at least five kinds of plasmodia that cause malaria:

  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Plasmodium vivax
  • Plasmodium malariae
  • Plasmodium ovale
  • Plasmodium knowlesi

Of this group, two species (Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax) account for about 90 percent of all malaria cases in humans. Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe form of the disease.

The plasmodia that cause malaria travel from one host to the other, riding along in the saliva the insect injects into its victims to desensitize them and make sure their blood doesn't coagulate.

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Learning Objective

After working with this animation, students will be able to trace the life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum, including its symbiotic relationship with the female Anopheles mosquito.

Standards Addressed
Can be used with existing lesson plans on

Parasites; protozoans; diseases and their transmission; malaria; animal behavior; insects; mosquitoes; general biology

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