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Somewhere in the jungle, a hungry mosquito is waiting for you to fall asleep. Inside her salivary glands is a protozoan stew of sporozoites. When she injects saliva to liquefy her dinner, she will also deposit a load of worm-like microscopic parasites that will circulate with your blood, silently taking up residence in your liver. Even if you are taking anti-malarial medicines, a year could pass before the symptoms begin -- recurrent bouts of high fever that follow a regular cycle every two to three days as waves of merozoites invade and rupture your red blood cells, clogging the circulation to your brain and lungs. Your urine may turn dark and turbid from the lost hemoglobin -- hence the name "Blackwater Fever." During your months of relapsing delerium, young mosquitoes will pick up the gametocyte from your blood, allowing it sexually recombine within the insects' gut, before migrating back to the salivary glands to complete a life cycle that might have been hatched from the script of a horror movie.

Malaria has proven to be an ancient and formidable foe of mankind. Some attributed the disease to stunting the growth of civilization in equatorial regions. In Africa, where it reins supreme, Malaria may have nudged human evolution, increasing the frequency of mutations for sickle cell and thalassemia -- hemoglobin variations that offer partial resistance. There has been progress toward eliminating Malaria from former strongholds such as Europe and North America, but the Anopheles mosquito continues to thrive in these areas, poised to start new epidemics as Earth slowly warms from antropogenic carbon dioxide.

In spite of massive spending by government and private sources such at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, no Malaria vaccine is in sight, and an estimated quarter of a billion people suffer from an infection that causes over a half-million deaths annually -- especially among pregnant women and children. New drug-resistant strains are still emerging, and the struggle is likely to stretch far into the future. Fortunately, most people with access to modern medicine can look forward to a cure.

But many children with Malaria are not so lucky. In the sixty seconds you took to read these words, an infected child has died.

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