Malaria or a disease resembling malaria has been noted for more than 4,000 years. Malaria (from Italian, “bad air”) Although it has nothing to do with bad air, it does rise from still bodies of water and spread across the surface of the land, conveyed to human beings by the Anopheles mosquito.
The symptoms of malaria were described in ancient Chinese medical writings. In 2700 BC, several characteristic symptoms of what would later be named malaria were described in the Nei Ching , The Canon of Medicine). Nei Ching was edited by Emperor Huang Ti. Malaria became widely recognized in Greece by the 4th century BCE, and it was responsible for the decline of many of the city-state populations. Hippocrates noted the principal symptoms. By the age of Pericles, there were extensive references to malaria in the literature and depopulation of rural areas was recorded. In the Susruta , a Sanskrit medical treatise, the symptoms of malarial fever were described and attributed to the bites of certain insects. A number of Roman writers attributed malarial diseases to the swamps.
On August 20th, 1897, Ronald Ross, a British officer in the Indian Medical Service, was the first to demonstrate that malaria parasites could be transmitted from infected patients to mosquitoes. In further work with bird malaria, Ross showed that mosquitoes could transmit malaria parasites from bird to bird. This necessitated a sporogonic cycle (the time interval during which the parasite developed in the mosquito). Thus, the problem of malaria transmission was solved. For his discovery, Ross was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902.
Presently, the vast majority of malaria deaths occur in Africa, south of the Sahara, where malaria also presents major obstacles to social and economic development. Malaria has been estimated to cost Africa more than US$ 12 billion every year in lost GDP. There are atleast 300 million acute cases of malaria each year globally. Malaria is Africa’s leading cause of under-five mortality (20%) and constitutes 10% of the continent’s overall disease burden. It accounts for 40% of public health expenditure, 30-50% of inpatient admissions, and up to 50% of outpatient visits in areas with high malaria transmission.
Following their arrival in the New World, Spanish Jesuit missionaries learned from indigenous Indian tribes of a medicinal bark used for the treatment of fevers. With this bark, the Countess of Chinchón, the wife of the Viceroy of Peru, was cured of her fever. The bark from the tree was then called Peruvian bark and the tree was named Cinchona after the countess. The medicine from the bark is now known as the antimalarial, quinine. Along with artemisinins, quinine is one of the most effective antimalarial drugs available today.
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