The five species of pathogens that cause malaria in humans are P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale and P. knowlesi, notes WebMD. All of these belong to the genus Plasmodium.
There are hundreds of species of Plasmodium, but some only infect animals, birds and reptiles, as stated by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The pathogens are spread when infected mosquitoes bite a person. Malaria is most common in African and Asian countries. Malaria can cause a person to become very sick and treatment is required for death is possible. Lab tabs are used to detect and diagnose the disease.