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A Fatal Bite

Investigating a Malaria Outbreak in Sub-Saharan Africa


Author(s)

Obidimma Ezezika
Department of Health and Society
University of Toronto Scarborough
obidimma.ezezika@utoronto.ca
Mona Jarrah
Department of Health and Society
University of Toronto Scarborough
mona.jarrah@mail.utoronto.ca
Shawanah Rahman
Department of Health and Society
University of Toronto Scarborough
shawanah.rahman@mail.utoronto.ca

Abstract

In this case study, students follow “Mr. Okoro” as he makes the long journey with his sick daughter “Ada” to seek medical attention at the nearest clinic in Enugu, Nigeria. It is the rainy season, and “Dr. Fabian” from the Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria has been called in to investigate a suspected outbreak of malaria. Students learn about the circumstances in Ada’s background that may have led to her illness, and then adopt the perspective of Dr. Fabian as she investigates the outbreak. They consider the epidemiological triangle, the different stages of the Plasmodium parasite lifecycle and how it leads to malaria, and evaluate the broader societal factors and future implications of malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa. The case was designed for upper-level global health, public health, and human biology courses, but could also be adapted for general biology, health studies, infectious disease, and epidemiology courses.


Objectives

  • Understand the transmission of the Plasmodium parasite.
  • Learn the different stages of the Plasmodium parasite lifecycle and how it leads to malaria.
  • Create and understand an epidemiological triangle of malaria.
  • Identify strategies to diagnose, treat, and reduce the risk of malaria.
  • Identify benefits and limitations of insecticide-treated mosquito nets.
  • Consider the evolution of multi-drug resistant forms of malaria.
  • Evaluate the relationship between the biological basis of malaria and social determinants that impact malaria transmission.
  • Explore how a piloted malaria vaccine works and its efficacy.
  • Consider the evolution of the P. knowlesi parasite and its ability to “jump the species barrier.”

Keywords

Plasmodium; malaria; outbreak; Africa; parasite; mosquitoes; social determinants of health; epidemiology; rapid diagnostic test; RDT; malaria bed nets; infectious disease; P. falciparum; transmission; insecticide-treated bed nets;

Topical Areas

Social issues

Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Graduate, Continuing education

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Analysis (Issues), Discussion

Language

English

Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |   Epidemiology  |   Medicine (General)  |   Microbiology  |   Molecular Biology  |   Public Health  |  


Date Posted

11/29/2021

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Answer Key

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Videos

The following video(s) are recommended for use in association with this case study.

  • The Basics of Malaria
    This video explores the biological basis of malaria in terms of its vector, pathogen, and associated symptoms and clinical outlook. The visual lifecycle of the pathogen, Plasmodium, occurring in the mosquito and human is used to explain why the characteristic symptoms (i.e., cyclical fevers) of malaria occur. Running time: 9:59 min. Produced by Khan Academy, 2015.
  • A Tragic Choice: Fight Malaria or Starve
    This video explores how insecticide-treated bed nets, a global health innovation to lower the prevalence of malaria, are being misused by communities all around the world as fishing nets. Individuals will be able to consider why certain interventions fail to fulfill their purpose and the role social determinants plays when it comes to the successful implementation of an intervention. Running time: 3.22 minutes. Produced by Ben C. Solomon, The New York Times, 2015.

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