Malaria could quite easily be considered the greatest killer of all humanity, the word itself means “bad air”. That’s quite a hefty accusation to make, but compared to other epidemic cases where the risk of a spreading infection is limited to an average of 4-10 people per the infected, malaria has a 100% chance of infecting anyone who comes in contact. 100%. Final destination… no escape… or is there? Malaria is an infection transmitted through the blood by the malaria parasite. The infection is spread through a mosquitoes bite, allowing the parasite access to a human’s blood stream. The many symptoms of malaria include: fevers, chills, muscle pains, and throbbing headaches. All are seen in the four different types of the disease, however the most lethal is falciparum malaria. Malaria has been recognized in countries such as China, India, and Egypt for thousands of years. It was also common in European countries such as England and the Netherlands which was known as “the ague”. Malaria has affected civilizations all over the world through out time. Alexander the Great, David Livingston, soldiers from the Civil War and even Napoleon’s troops all suffered under the grasp of this terrible disease. Even as late as 1914, over half a million people in the United States were stricken with malaria.
Quinine is an alkaloid from the bark from a Cinchona tree, indigenous to the Andes mountains. The bark was originally used in teas to cure a fever but was then found to be very effective in the battle against malaria. This discovery was so great and the demand for Cinchona bark so much that extinction was inevitable at the rate of harvest. It was synthesized into chloroquine, which lasted about 40 years before mosquitoes evolved and became resistant to it. So the search continued an this time at the source of the disease: the mosquitoes itself. Therefore, the insecticide DDT was created. DDT acts by interfering with a nerve control process unique to insects. The great part about DDT is its not toxic to humans or other animals and is very cheap to make and of course effective! The one consequence to the insecticide was the resulting ecological imbalance, causing a few bug problems.
Personally I think malaria has had a large impact in our world. I didn’t realize how wide spread the disease become over time. Without the many cures found over the years our world would be very different than how it is today. A disease as deadly as malaria would cause major issues without such discoveries. I also think malaria was a great choice by the authors in adding a chapter to the book centered around it. I learned a lot I didn’t know about it especially how much it really has effected so many different civilizations over time!