What complications are associated with Plasmodium falciparum (P falciparum) malarial infection?

Updated: Apr 26, 2019
  • Author: Thomas E Herchline, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

P falciparum can cause cerebral malaria, pulmonary edema, rapidly developing anemia, and renal problems. An important reason that the consequences of P falciparum infection are so severe is that, due to its ability to adhere to endothelial cell walls, the species causes vascular obstruction. When a red blood cell (RBC) becomes infected with P falciparum, the organism produces proteinaceous knobs that bind to endothelial cells. The adherence of these infected RBCs causes them to clump together in the blood vessels in many areas of the body, causing microvascular damage and leading to much of the damage incurred by the parasite.


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