Chapter 17 – Molecules Versus Malaria

Chemistry of Molecules Against Malaria

Malaria is one of the most devestating diseases known to man. It’s name means “bad air” as it was thought to be a result from poisonous mists and evil vapors. The disease is actually cuased by a microscopic parasites and kills two to three million people a year. The four different species of the parasite that infects humans include P. vivax, P. falciparum, P. malarie, and P. ovale. They all cause the symptoms of intense fever, chills, terrible headaches, and muscle pain. The most lethal type is falciparum as the other types are considered benign although they are anything but that. Malaria is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. The first idea of a cure camethe molecule quinine which was foundin the upper parts of the Andes Mountains where trees with bark that contained an alkaloid molecule resided. This bark was known by the natives to be an effective fever cure. There are even stories where the bark had saved people from what was thought to be malaria. Still the identity of the plant was unknown to the people who searched for the curing bark. This was until Joseph de Jussieu discovered the source of the bark when exploring the higher elevations in South America. The demand for the bark was extensive and by the eighteenth century 25,000 quina trees were cut down every year. After much research of what exactly was in the tree bark almost thirty alkaloids were foung to be inside the bark. Quinine was quickly found as the active ingredent and attempts to synthesize were in place. however the structure was unknown so these attempts to extract it were unsuccesful One chemist, William Perkin, thought that by combined two molecules of allyltoluidine with three oxygen atoms that  quinine and water would form. While he failed his work payed of for making mauve for the dye industry and helping us realize that quinine was more complicated than before preceived. After many attempts to smuggle and grow there own trees the plantations in Java struck gold producing trees with 13 percent levels of quinine. This declined the export of bark from South America. Intense research on anti-malarial drus during World War II led to the discovery of a 4-aminoquinoline derivative. This molecule known as chloroquine contains a chlorine atom and for forty years was a safe anti-malarial drug. Sadly the chloroquine-resist strains have spread making it a less effective cure. The quest to succesfully synthesize quinine was tried many more times with the same unsuccesful result. The best the chemist could come up with for an attack against the disease was to kill it from the source, the mosquito. They then created an insecticide and the most effective, DDT, interferred with the nervous systems of the mosquito effectively killing them. Thanks to a variety of factors having to do with the improvment of living condidtions, the incidence of malaria has greatly decreased. DDT was the final stage to eliminate malraia in developed countries.

History of Malaria

The first records of malaria were recorded thousands of years ago in countries such as China, Egypt, and India. Later on the disease was found to occur often in the low-lying coastal regions of England and the Netherands. Extremely developed places like northern United States and Canada were even known the be effected by malaria. Rome and other places near the Black and Mediterranean Seas were known in history for its deadly fevers and cardinals who attended papal conclaves near the area were known to die from malaria contracted from the nearby area. It even effected the Greeks as they would move thier livestock to high hills during the summer to hide from the disease.Many famous  people were thought to die from malaria including Alexander the Great and troops all over the world have been effected by this disease. Troops are most prone because they are known to sleep outside or in tents leaving them susceptible to mosquitos at night. Malaria, until recent times, was a problem in countries even as advanced as the United States. Though it has been mostly eraticated, malaria still effects under developed countries such as those in Africa.

Opinion on the Matter and Author’s Arguement

Malaria and the cure for it still is apart of the modern world. Even though the disease has been eliminated in advanced countries there are still many third-world countries that are effected by malaria everyday. Places like Africa are effected everyday by the deadly disease. Commericals on television even beg for you to donate so the people in Africa can have mosquito repellent beds or something along the lines of vaccines to help prevent or cure malaria. However the research and discovery of DDT has greatly inhanced the capability of eraticating malraia. I beleive until the disease has been completely destroyed malaria will be apart of our modern world. The author’s opinion on how different the world would be without the quest to cure this disease is absolutley true. The search for a cure made exporting tree bark from South America a necessity. Also the effect it has had on armies have caused wars to be lost and won in many different situations. Just imagined if the spread of malaria was never stopped? Many people would have died and our population could have even been driven to extinction. Our world would be quite different- for better or for worse- without the substitutions produced through the tireless research and inginuity of those who create molecules.










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2 thoughts on “Chapter 17 – Molecules Versus Malaria

  1. Bad spelling and grammar, but a very good summary. You effectively picked the most important points out of the chapter and explained how those points impacted history. Your last sentence confused me a little, because throughout the whole summary you are explaining why quinine is good, but then you end with “for better or for worse”. Are you just referring to attempts to synthesize molecules in general? Overall, I think you wrote a very neat summary that just needed some commas and a spellcheck.

  2. I agree with Claire on the spelling and grammar, but over all this was a great blog! You had a very informed and detailed synopsis about both the chemistry and historical aspects of malaria. Great point at the end tying in all the different things malaria has effected throughout history such as trade and war. Good choice in a chapter as well haha 😉

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