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The life cycle of a malaria parasite Biology Immunology


An animation which shows the life cycle of a malaria parasite in a few steps.

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You may use it to discuss the:

  • Infection process
  • Possible ways to avoid it
  • The areas in the world where malaria is a health problem

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Terms you need to know:

Malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. The sporozoite form of the parasite is transmitted from mosquitos to humans.
Within 30 minutes, sporozoites enter liver cells. They multiply for 5-7 days, forming thousands of merozoites.
The merozoites burst out of the liver into the bloodstream and invade red blood cells.
In the red blood cell, the parasite multiplies to form new merozoites. This typically takes 2 days.
Infected red blood cells burst, releasing merozoites, which infect new cells.
Some merozoites invade the red blood cells and develop into gametocytes, the sexual stages of the parasite.
Gametocytes are taken up by the mosquito when it takes a blood meal.
In the mosquito gut, the gametocytes develop into gametes, and fuse to form a zygote.
After fertilization, the zygote transforms into a motile ookinete.
The ookinete burrows through the mosquito’s stomach wall.
The ookinete becomes an oocyst, which divides to produce about 1000 sporozoites.
After about 5-7 days, the sporozoites are released and move to the salivary glands, ready to infect another human.

Additional information:

type: video animation
format: flash
Permission to(1):
download: yes
modify: no
Further permissions:
Age group(2): 13-16


(1) For personal, non-commercial use. To read the complete "Terms of use" of this learning object, please follow the link given in "Further permissions".

(2) Suggested age group. The learning object may be used by the Teachers with students of any age.