Skip to content

Scourge of Humankind

November 30, 2010

W.N. Bynum in WSJ Books:

Bad Air. Even the word “malaria” tells us that the disease caused by the plasmodium pathogen is out of the ordinary. The name “Mal-Aria” didn’t come into common medical usage until about 300 years ago, but for many more centuries “swamp fever” expressed the same thing: a serious disorder that assaulted the human body and especially the brain. Associated with bad drainage, water-logged soil and damp climate, it was the quintessential disease of location.

Location still matters a great deal in the incidence of malaria, but it is no coincidence that the most intensely malarious locations in the world today—sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, parts of South America—are also some of the poorest. This connection between poverty and malaria is undeniable, but their causal chain is problematic. Does malaria cause poverty through premature death, chronic disability and low productivity? Or does poverty itself cause the social chaos and unhealthy conditions that permit malaria to take a stranglehold on a town, region, country and even a continent? This seemingly straightforward question has been fiercely debated for a century and more.

Ronald Ross, who won the 1902 Nobel Prize for medicine for his demonstration that malaria is transmitted by Anopheles mosquitoes, firmly believed that malaria causes poverty. Get rid of malaria and malarious areas of the world will begin to prosper. Jeffrey Sachs, the outspoken economist who heads Columbia University’s Earth Institute, has inherited Ross’s modern mantle.  [More]

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s