Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the two African men who died in a Springfield, MO hotel in May died of cerebral malaria, caused by the mosquito-borne parasite, Plasmodium falciparum.


Malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes and not communicable person-to-person.

According to a statement by the Springfield Police Department, Gerrit Strydom, 45, and James Bethel, 44, both of South Africa, were found dead in separate hotel rooms at the La Quinta Inn on 1610 E. Evergreen on May 9. Foul play was not suspected.

They were traveling Route 66 on motorcycles on a self-guided tour, according to authorities. Next of kin has been located and notified.

Malaria is considered the most important parasitic disease affecting humans. The female Anopheles mosquito serves as the vector for the parasite.

The protozoan parasite belongs from the genus Plasmodium. There are many species of Plasmodium that infect vertebrates, but only 4 that are important to humans. The four species are:  Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax,  Plasmodium malariae and  Plasmodium ovale.

In addition, there has been some documented cases of people getting simian malaria (P. knowlesi).

The disease may manifest itself after an incubation of days to months. Once the parasites build up in the blood,symptoms are non-specific; fever, chills, body aches, diarrhea and vomiting. At this point the only way to confirm is finding the parasites in blood. These early stages resemble many other febrile diseases.

Paroxysms (due to rupture and release of the parasite and metabolic products into the system), happen every 48-72 hours depending on the species.

There is a cold stage which leads to teeth chattering, shaking chills followed by a hot stage (fever) where temperatures may reach 106°F. Convulsions may develop particularly in children.

Untreated P. falciparum (the life-threatening species) can lead to severe malaria. Severe malaria is characterized by cerebral malaria, severe anemia, renal filure (black water fever), respiratory distress and bleeding disorders and shock.

Prompt treatment for falciparum malaria is essential cause death from cerebral complications may occur.

Cerebral malaria is the most severe neurological complication of infection with Plasmodium falciparum malaria. It is a clinical syndrome characterized by coma ( This is thought to be causes by parasitized red blood cells (pRBCs) sequestered in cerebral micro-circulation) and asexual forms of the parasite on peripheral blood smears. Mortality is high and some surviving patients sustain brain injury which manifest as long-term neuro-cognitive impairments.

In adults, cerebral malaria is part of a multi-organ disease.