What findings suggest Plasmodium knowlesi (P knowlesi) malaria?

Updated: Jun 03, 2020
  • Author: Thomas E Herchline, MD; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Travelers to forested areas of Southeast Asia and South America have become infected by Plasmodium knowlesi, a dangerous species normally found only in long-tailed and pigtail macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis and M nemestrina, respectively). This species can cause severe illness and death in humans, but, under the microscope, the parasite looks similar to the more benign P malariae and has sometimes been misdiagnosed.

Because P malariae infection is typically relatively mild, Plasmodium knowlesi infection should be suspected in persons residing or traveling in the above geographical areas who are severely ill and have microscopic evidence of P malariae infection. Diagnosis may be confirmed via polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay test methods.

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