Cheryl Cole has revealed that she owes her life to her friend Derek Hough, after she was struck down with malaria.

According to the Sunday Mirror, The X Factor judge was left just hours from death after doctors initially misdiagnosed her with flu – until Derek stepped in and insisted they carried out further tests.

“Derek saved my life,” Cheryl reportedly told a friend. “If he hadn’t spoken out to the doctors and told them he thought something was seriously wrong I would probably have died.”

She was initially diagnosed with flu and exhaustion after collapsing at a photo shoot in July, and was sent back to her Surrey home where Derek was staying.

However she was rushed back to hospital when her health deteriorated hours later – and Derek reportedly urged doctors to carry out blood tests which led to the malaria being detected.

Afterwards, doctors told Cheryl that she could have died without urgent treatment and might not be alive if it were not for Derek’s quick thinking.

“I thought I had a bad case of flu and everyone else agreed,� Cheryl told a friend. “I was even told to stay at home and get some rest. The doctors were so certain it was not serious, and I believed them.”

Cheryl, who is thought to have contracted the potentially fatal disease while on holiday in Tanzania with Derek, is set to return to work on The X Factor later this month.