2015 Best in Digital Rendering – Stephanie O’Neil

Malarial Infection as a Digital Sculpture

Medium: Digital                Art, 6.5″ x 20″, Printed Poster

Malaria is a widespread human disease caused by a parasite. The transmission of the parasite into the blood stream is initiated when an infected pregnant female mosquito feeds on human blood. According to the 2013 World Health Organization’s annual report on Malaria, there has been a decline in the disease worldwide due largely to preventive measures such as controlling mosquito population. However, the disease is still rampant in the developing world. In 2012, there were around 207 million cases of malaria, and 627,000 deaths that were a result of infection. It is estimated that 3.4 million people worldwide are at risk for contracting the parasite. Malaria is a rigorous and highly evolved parasite that lives half its life in the human blood stream and the other half in the Mosquito’s digestive system. It is crucial to understand each stage of the infection thoroughly in order to affectively treat the disease. A form of the Plasmodium falciburm parasite, called sporozoites inhabit the pregnant female mosquito’s salivary gland, so when she feeds on a human the sporozoites enter the blood stream of the human. Sporozoites first go to liver cells where they lay dormant for 5-16 days during which time merzoites are being rapidly produced within liver cells. Then the liver cells lyse, and the merozoites adhere to red blood cells. After parasitic invasion, the infected red blood cell undergoes three structural stages of infection. The parasite incubated inside red blood cells after this, the final stage called the schizont stage occurs. Here, the parasite reproduces asexually to form between 16 and 32 daughter merozoites. After this point, increased internal pressure causes the red blood cell to burst open. The freed merzoites can move through the blood stream and attach to other red blood cells. This harmful process of asexual reproduction occurs repeatedly for 1-3 days around the 15th-20th day after initial infection. It is often in this time that the symptoms of Malaria begin to manifest, especially fevers.