Falciparum malaria: The most dangerous type of malaria. Red blood cells infected with the parasite tend to sludge and form microinfarctions (small areas of dead tissue due to lack of oxygen) in capillaries in the brain, liver, adrenal gland, intestinal tract, kidneys, lungs, and other organs. Treatment is in a hospital setting, using intravenous medications.
Persons carrying the sickle cell gene have some protection against malaria. Persons with a gene for hemoglobin C (another abnormal hemoglobin like sickle hemoglobin), thalassemia trait or deficiency of the enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) are thought also to have partial protection against malaria.
It is now widely believed that falciparum malaria contributed in no small way to the final fall of the Roman Empire. DNA evidence supports this concept.