This is going to be my last post for now on the neglected tropical disease of malaria, I hope you have enjoyed my research journey as much as I have. For this one I am going to leave you with some of the most (in my opinion) interesting facts about malaria that I have discovered along the way. You might even be surprised by them; enjoy!
Sir Ronald Ross, a British Doctor, was the one who discovered the transmission of malaria by mosquitoes whilst he was researching malaria in India, on 20 August 1897; this is now known as World Mosquito Day. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902 for his work.
Some people can be more prone to being bitten than others, as mosquitos are attracted to certain specific stimuli. They have chemical sensors, which allow them to detect CO2 and lactic acid, both produced naturally by mammals when we breathe. They also use heat sensors and visual sensors to find living organisms; they are more likely to be attracted to warmer things that produce more movement, as these are strong indications of life.
Papaya happens to be a favourite fruit for the male mosquito. One recent (2010) attempt to control mosquito numbers was by poisoning papaya fruit with a chemical that caused them to become infertile. As mozzies only mate once, and the females have no way of knowing if the males are fertile or not, this was thought to be a possible solution to reduce mosquito populations in areas endemic for malaria.
Famous people who have been affected with malaria include: George Clooney, Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, Michael Caine, Lord Nelson, Didier Drogba, Mahatma Gandhi and a grand total of THREE US Presidents; George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy.
The malaria virus has actually had its uses in the past: Before antibiotics it was used as a form of therapy for syphilis – the high temperatures induced by the infection destroyed the syphilis bacterium. Three or four bouts of fever were usually sufficient to get rid of the syphilis, and quinine was used to control the malaria. Although some patients died of the malaria, for the majority it was a risk worth taking to avoid certain death from syphilis.
Thank you for reading!