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|Classification and external resources|
Blackwater fever is a complication of malaria in which red blood cells burst in the bloodstream (hemolysis), releasing hemoglobin directly into the blood vessels and into the urine, frequently leading to kidney failure. The disease was first linked to malaria by the Sierra Leonean physician Dr John Farrell Easmon in his 1884 pamphlet entitled The Nature and Treatment of Blackwater Fever. Easmon coined the name "blackwater fever" and was the first to successfully treat such cases following the publication of his pamphlet.
Signs and symptoms
The cause of hemolytic crises in this disease is unknown (mainly due to intravascular haemolysis). There is rapid and massive destruction of red blood cells with the production of hemoglobinemia (hemoglobin in the blood, but outside the red blood cells), hemoglobinuria (hemoglobin in urine), intense jaundice, anuria (passing less than 50 milliliters of urine in a day), and finally death in the majority of cases.
The most probable explanation for blackwater fever is an autoimmune reaction apparently caused by the interaction of the malaria parasite and the use of quinine. Blackwater fever is caused by heavy parasitization of red blood cells with Plasmodium falciparum. There has been at least one case, however, attributed to Plasmodium vivax.
Blackwater fever is a serious complication of malaria, but cerebral malaria has a higher mortality rate. Blackwater fever is much less common today than it was before 1950. It may be that quinine plays a role in triggering the condition, and this drug is no longer commonly used for malaria prophylaxis. Quinine remains important for treatment of malaria except when the parasite is resistant to chloroquine, a problem that has been on the rise since 1990.
Actor Don Adams, best known as Maxwell Smart from the popular sitcom Get Smart and as the title character in Inspector Gadget, contracted Blackwater Fever after being shot in combat at Guadalcanal during World War II. Adams was evacuated from his United States Marine Corps unit to a hospital in New Zealand where he ultimately made a full recovery.
- Out of Africa, a 1985 film based on the experiences of author Isak Dinesen
- The Power of One, a 1992 film based on the book of the same name
- The Bridge on the River Kwai, a 1957 film about prisoners of war in a jungle environment
- At Play in the Fields of the Lord, a 1965 novel by Peter Matthiessen
- West with the Night (1942), African memoir by aviator Beryl Markham
- Burmese Days, a 1934 novel by George Orwell; several associates of Flory are noted to have died of blackwater fever in chapter 5
- The Heart of the Matter, a 1948 novel by Graham Greene
- Green Hills of Africa, a 1935 novel by Ernest Hemingway
- The Book of Secrets, a 1994 novel by M. G. Vassanji
- Blackwater Fever, a 2008 film by Cyrus Frisch
- The Blackwater Fever, a blues band out of Australia
- An Ice-Cream War, a 1982 novel by William Boyd set during the First World War in German East Africa
- Liberia as I know it, a 1929 novel by medical missionary Clinton Caldwell Boone
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