Million Murdering Death

Geoff Butcher describes how, throughout history, Malaria has played a major role in affecting the outcome of human endeavour.

When I began research on malaria over thirty years ago I was often asked why I was working on a disease that was no longer a problem. Why wasn’t I working on cancer or a cure for the common cold? In those days fewer people travelled to the tropics for holidays and malaria received no attention from the media, though compared to cancer or even HIV, for example, it still receives relatively little publicity. Nevertheless, it currently affects nearly 40 per cent of the world population with nearly 3 million deaths and over 300 million cases annually. On average someone dies of malaria every twelve seconds and the situation is getting worse (as a comparison, someone is killed or injured by a land mine every twenty minutes). But we have known the cause of malaria for over a hundred years, and last year celebrated the centenary of Ross’s discovery of how it is transmitted – by mosquito.

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