Malaria has been around for more than a millennia as its victims have included Neolithic people as well. Ancient writings talk about a fever whose symptoms indicate that these people were dealing with Malaria; these writings include scripts from Mesopotamian Cuneiform, Vedic scriptures and Egyptian hieroglyphic tablets. Recently traces of Malaria have been found in two mummies dug up in Egypt; making these bodies the oldest known cases of malaria (AL-Khafif et al.). In the late 1800s, malaria was a huge problem faced by the military of France. Among the military doctors was Alphonse Laveran who meticulously studied the disease in hopes of finding a cure. Previously it was believed that the disease was caused due to polluted air but Larevan thought otherwise and his main objective was to identify the causal agent of malaria. He studied the affected patients by observing lesions in the organs and the blood samples. He found that the constant element that showed up in all the samples was the presence of small black granules. He continued to study more blood samples in hopes of gaining a breakthrough (Drugs et al.).
That breakthrough came on 6th November 1880 at the military hospital of Constantine where he observed a spherical pigmented body that was rapidly replacing healthy red blood cells. This was the male gametocyte, a parasite that grows in the Anopheles mosquito; Larevan was convinced that he had found the causal agent. In the following years, he continued his studies; presenting hypotheses named “Treatise on Marsh Fevers” and “On Malaria and it Hematozoon”. His findings were met with skepticism but after years, they were accepted in 1890. After accepting his findings; further studies were conducted and it was found that different species of malaria parasites caused the disease (Charmot).
Malaria is still a cause for concern for over one hundred countries; with over 200 million cases and 600,000 deaths recorded by World Health Organization (WHO) in 2010. It is a tropical disease and it is endemic to developing countries but it has affected Africa the most. This is because the African climate provides an optimal environment for the malarial parasites to thrive due to this the number of cases in African countries is much higher than in other affected countries. This disease is so rampant in Africa because the species of malarial parasite “Plasmodium falciparum” causes the most severe malaria that has a high mortality rate and as the African climate is ideal for these parasites all year long; containing the disease is very difficult. Malaria affects poor families more as the lack of resources and hygienic environment has resulted in weak immune systems. Young children and pregnant women are at high risk of this disease as their immunity is low. People who are not native to the affected countries and have not developed immunity against malaria are also severely affected by it. In other countries that are affected by malaria have less prominent cases as the parasites have a small window for their life cycle. In 2019, it was estimated that 229 million cases and 409,000 deaths were caused by malaria. 94 percent of these numbers came from the African region. Malaria also has economic repercussions as the cost of treatment, facilities, medicines, supplies and skilled professionals can take on the country’s finances. These costs are estimated to be up to 12 billion dollars per year and that is an amount the developing countries do not have, for this reasons efforts are being made to increase the number of partners and resources to control this disease. This will alleviate the burden of costs from struggling countries and hopefully bring down mortality rates caused by malaria (Autino et al.).
AL-Khafif, Ghada Darwish, et al. “The Immunodetection of Non-Falciparum Malaria in Ancient Egyptian Bones (Giza Necropolis).” BioMed Research International, vol. 2018, July 2018, p. 9058108. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1155/2018/9058108.
Autino, Beatrice, et al. “Epidemiology of Malaria in Endemic Areas.” Mediterranean Journal of Hematology and Infectious Diseases, vol. 4, no. 1, Oct. 2012, p. e2012060. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.4084/MJHID.2012.060.
Charmot, Guy. CDC – Malaria – About Malaria – History – Laveran and the Discovery of the Malaria Parasite. 28 Mar. 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/history/laveran.html.
Drugs, Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on the Economics of Antimalarial, et al. “A Brief History of Malaria.” Saving Lives, Buying Time: Economics of Malaria Drugs in an Age of Resistance, National Academies Press (US), 2004. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK215638/.