World Malaria Day

World Malaria Day is commemorated every year on April 25th, to encourage global efforts to control Malaria.

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World Malaria Day

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease affecting humans and other animals. It is usually transmitted by an infected female Anopheles mosquito and is common in tropical regions of the world.

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Anopheles mosquito

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Geographical Distribution of Malaria across the World – Typically all tropical regions

Source – Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Malarial symptoms typically include fever, tiredness, vomiting and headaches. In severe cases, it leads to yellow skin, seizures, coma and death.

The first cure for this deadly disease came from a British scientist Sir Ronald Ross who was born on Indian soil at Almora, Himalayas.

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Sir Ronald Ross

Sir Ronald Ross who was sent to England to study as a boy, trained in medicine in England and returned to India to serve in the Indian Medical Service. Challenged by the Malaria disease which was killing people by the thousands, he took it upon himself to find the cause, as only then could cure follow.

His path breaking finds, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1902, included the following facts :

  1. that Malaria was transmitted by mosquitoes
  2. that the mosquito was only a carrier of the malaria causing parasite, which bred in its gut
  3. that the parasite was stored in its salivary gland and was transmitted to people through its sting when the mosquito bit people
  4. that the parasite further bred in people, moved around in their blood and entered new host mosquitoes when they bit the infected people thus creating a long chain of infected persons and mosquitoes.

But his further research was cut short when he was transferred to Kherwara in Rajasthan immediately, a desert, where there was no water stagnation and consequentially no malaria mosquito breeding.

This posting was in a way, a punishment handed over to Ronald Ross. For, it was then the policy of the British government in India to create famine and epidemics in order to suppress the Indian masses.

Sir Ronald Ross had then cynically remarked, “Columbus having sighted America was ordered off to discover the North Pole.

Finally as a dejected man, he returned to England.

Not only this, even native Indian scientists were not encouraged to pursue further research on Malaria and its cure.

More than 14 lakh people died in India due to Malaria, in 1939 alone.

So much for the British having encouraged science, medicine and discovery, during their colonial rule of India.

It was the combination of a British man, born on Indian soil and parasites nourished by Indian blood and Indian mosquitoes which led to one of world’s leading discoveries and cures for humans.

The relentless pursuit and success of this man can be seen from the poem he wrote to his wife on the night of his discovery on 21st August 1897.

This day relenting God
Hath placed within my hand
A wondrous thing; and God
Be praised. At His command,
Seeking His secret deeds
With tears and toiling breath,
I find thy cunning seeds,
O million-murdering Death.
I know this little thing
A myriad men will save.
O Death, where is thy sting?
Thy victory, O Grave?

Poem by Sir.Ronald Ross, describing his discovery of the malarial parasite in mosquitoes in 1897, Pg. 210, A Dictionary of Scientific Quotations By Alan L. Mackay

India has honoured the memory of his contribution by naming several institutions as well as roads in various cities across India, after Ross.

The connection between India and the cure for Malaria is coded in blood.

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