Difference between Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium falciparum

Malaria, a well known common disease is caused by the genus of Plasmodium parasites. There are 9 different species that are known, out of which 4 namely, Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae, Plasmodium ovale, Plasmodium knowlesi and Plasmodium falciparum are known to cause malaria in humans. Let us look at the differences between two of them; Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax.

Plasmodium vivax

Plasmodium falciparum


It is one of the widely spread protozoans, known to cause recurring malaria.

It is the deadliest species known to cause malaria.


It can cause enlargement of the spleen, splenomegaly and can often lead to death.

It can cause blood cancer and is classified as a carcinogen.


It belongs to the subgenus laverania.

It belongs to the subgenus Plasmodium.

The shape of the gametocyte

Round or oval-shaped.

Crescent or sausage-shaped.


It is found in Asia, Latin America and some parts of Africa.

It is found in all continents except Europe.

Incubation Period

The incubation period for vivax is 10 to 17 days and sometimes up to a year when it remains dormant in the body.

The incubation for falciparum is shortest, 11 days which can range from 9 to 30 days.


It causes benign tertian malaria.

It causes malignant tertian malaria.


It is less virulent as compared to falciparum.

It is the most virulent.

Clinical presentation

The infected red blood cells rupture causing fever.

The schizonts rupture and destroy the erythrocytes.


It shows unusual symptoms, such as hiccups, loss of taste, no fever, pain while swallowing and urinary problems.

Fever, chills, headache and sweating.


The trophozoites are enlarged up to 2x and may be distorted in shape.

The trophozoites are of normal size and shape.


It can remain dormant in the body, and relapse after 6 months or 1 year.

It shows symptoms instantly in the body.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do you identify Plasmodium vivax?

The gametocytes of vivax species are oval to spherical in shape with brown pigments almost filling up the RBCs.

How can you tell the difference between Plasmodium species?

Plasmodium species can be differentiated by observing their blood smears under a microscope.

How is infection with Plasmodium falciparum different from infections with other Plasmodium species?

Infection by the falciparum species is more virulent and presents with instant fever to the organism. Also, the parasite density of falciparum is higher than any other species.

Can vivax coexist with falciparum?

Yes, they can coexist causing a severe malaria burden.

How do you identify Plasmodium falciparum?

The gametocytes of this species are very unusual, crescent or banana-shaped.

What is the infective stage of Plasmodium falciparum?

Sporozoites are the infective stages of Plasmodium falciparum.

Why is Plasmodium falciparum most virulent?

It is the most virulent because it interferes with the physiology of the host during its initial stages of development.

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