Ch. 17: Molecules Versus Malaria

Cross section of the Malaria parasite (

Malaria is a nasty little parasite that is the greatest killer of humanity for all time. In other cases of epidemics, an infected person runs the risk of spreading the disease to 4-10 people, but if the person has malaria, then that person can possible infect 100 other people. The Malaria parasite is found in the blood and is transmitted and spread when mosquitos bite people. Symptoms of malaria include intense fever, chills, terrible headache, and muscle pains. Eventually, an infected patient will become jaundiced, lethargic, and confused before lapsing into a coma and dying. (Le Couteur & Burreson 330-350)

Quinine, an alkaloid from the bark of Cinchona genus has proved very effective against fighting malaria. the cinchona bark was made into a tea and drunken to relieve fevers most likely caused by malaria. The demand for quinine had become so great over the years that the cinchona trees would sound be extinct if the rate of harvest continued. Therefore, the compound was synthesized into chloroquine. Chloroquine was an effective treatment for around forty years and then a chloroquine resistant strain of malaria evolved and it was no longer useful. (Le Couteur & Burreson 330-350)

The best way to stop malaria, or so it seemed, was to stop its transmission by killing the mosquitos. The insecticide DDT was created just for this purpose. DDT works by interfering with with a nerve control process unique to insects. Because of this, at the levels used in insecticide, DDT is not toxic to humans and other animals, but lethal to insects. DDT was extremely cheap and effective, but soon it caused an ecological imbalance, which caused an even more serious bug problem. (Le Couteur & Burreson 330-350)