Molecules Vs Malaria (Post 2)

The disease malaria may be considered the greatest killer of humanity for all time. It is estimated there are around 300 million to 500 million cases a year worldwide. The symptoms of malaria include intense fever, chills, terrible headache, and muscle pains, all of which can be fatal. Malaria is spread rapidly and one infected person can pass it on to hundreds of others. The main source of the transfer of malaria is the bite of the anopheles mosquito. The female mosquito needs blood before she can lay her eggs. The malaria parasite can be transferred if the person it bites is infected and the mosquito bites another not infected person. There are three molecules involved in the fight against malaria. Quinine, DDT, and hemoglobin all helped in decreasing the deaths to malaria worldwide.
Quinine was the first affirmative cure for malaria. It was found in the bark of the cinchona tree, and was taken to reduce the fever associated with malaria. The popularity of this cure caused an estimated 25,000 quina trees to be stripped and cut down each year. With the possibility of the trees becoming endangered, the governments of Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia prohibited the export of the seeds of the tree or living plants to maintain their hold on the trade. With the limitations on the compound, another route was sought. In 1820 Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Caventou were the first to successfully extract purified quinine, the active ingredient in the bark. The Dutch government was able to purchase questionable cinchona seeds with high quinine content. They planted them in Java where it became a major export for the Dutch government. Synthesis of quinine was achieved when quinine became necessary for troops in WWII. Gilbert Stork successfully synthesized quinine from a derivative of quinoline, but the process was painstaking and difficult to produce fast enough.
Quinine was not available to everyone who was endangered by the disease, so a solution was needed to get rid of the mosquitoes that carried the parasite for malaria. DDT was a pesticide that successfully killed the carriers. The application and sprayings of DDT began in India in 1953. At that time, there were an estimated 75 million cases of malaria. By 1968 there were only 300,000. It was a long-lasting insecticide that only required application once or twice a year. The devastating effects on the environment were realized many years later and the insecticide was banned. However bad the effects were, it can be said it saved many lives in countries where quinine wasn’t available.
Hemoglobin is considered to be nature’s way of fighting malaria. Many sub-Saharan Africans carry the genetic trait for sickle-cell anemia, an illness that causes red blood cells to become rigid and elongated. Because of their shape, the cells have trouble fitting through blood capillaries and can cause blockages in vessels. The body’s reaction to get rid of the deformed blood cells quickly causes a reduction in red blood cells in the body. It has been found that there is a surprising correlation with the inheritance of the gene and immunity to malaria. Hemoglobin is a protein that makes red blood cells red. It has precisely ordered amino acids in two sets of two identical strands. Sickle-cell anemia patients have a single aminso acid difference on one of the sets of strands. The immunity to malaria caused a demand for African slaves in America to cultivate and work in plantations.
The historical impact of these molecules is tremendous. Quinine allowed the European colonization of much of the world, as well as bringing an economic advantage to those who controlled the trees in the Andes. The DDT molecule finally eradicated malaria from Europe as North America, and caused a worldwide scare on the harmful effects on the environment. The discovery that sickle-cell anemia carriers were immune to malaria boosted the demand for African slaves in the colonies and was a major factor in the slave trade.
These molecules have a continued effect on the modern world. Malaria is still a major problem in undeveloped countries, where easily accessible medicine is difficult to come by. Quinine is used in medicine for travelers and others who may come in contact with the disease. DDT is not used to fight malaria anymore, but allowed North America and Europe to finally be malaria-free. The hemoglobin deformation in sickle-cell anemia patients did cause slave traders and slave owners to exploit sub-Saharan Africans in the slave trade, but I do disagree with author on the point that the production of cotton and other major exports in America wouldn’t have happened for hemoglobin. I believe America would have found another way to grow and cultivate the major crops, and the world wouldn’t be very different than it is today.

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One thought on “Molecules Vs Malaria (Post 2)

  1. brookekowalski

    Awesome Anna(that is an alliteration)! I am glad that they have found antidotes for this horrible disease; it is so nice to know that our country is now safe from it. Great job on the chemistry/biology explanations, and I agree with you when you said that America would have found another way to develop without slaves.

    Just think: thanks to the discovery of Quinine, we can both go to the Jamboree without worrying about cataching malaria! 😉

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