Malaria has shaped the course of
history for millennia. It has always been part of the ups
and downs of nations; of wars and of upheavals. Kings, popes,
and military leaders were struck down in their prime by malaria
[See below]. Many great warriors succumbed to malaria after
returning from the warfront and advance of armies into continents
was prevented by malaria. In many conflicts, more troops
were killed by malaria than in combat. The activities of the
armed forces would create thousands of breeding places for the
vector mosquitoes and thus greatly increase the transmission.
Even in recent years, night vigils and other activities like
cine-viewing, lack of mosquito nets and other protection,
failure to take chemoprophylaxis, due mainly to its adverse
effects has contributed to the rising cases of malaria in war
Col. C. H. Melville, Professor of hygiene, Royal
Army Medical College, London, wrote a chapter on malaria
prevention in war in Ronald Ross's book The Prevention
of Malaria. He wrote: "The history of malaria in
war might almost be taken to be the history of war itself,
certainly the history of war in the Christian era."
He suggested that a specially selected medical officer should
be placed in charge of antimalaria operations with executive
and disciplinary powers.
also been a great stimulus for research into newer
anti malaria drugs. Cinchona bark and Quinine were "hot
properties" during the two World Wars and inability to
procure or maintain adequate stocks of quinine spurred research
into other drugs to treat malaria so that the troops could
be treated effectively. Thus it appears that probably a lot
of money was spent on anti-malaria efforts during wars, if
not more than what was spent on the war itself. The Navy
Medical Research Center, Walter Reed Army Institute of
Research , and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of
Infectious Diseases of the US Armed Forces is continuously
engaged in research into developing newer drugs and vaccines
Some well known
conflicts marred by malaria include:
It is believed that Alexander the Great was killed by malaria at the height
of his power. In alliance with Greek states, this Macedonian general had
conquered the Persians, capturing the entire coastline of the eastern
Mediterranean, Syria, Phoenicia, Arabia, and Egypt. Alexander also humbled the
valiant tribes of northern India, virtually conquering the entire known world.
He had set out to subjugate the earth but just as he was to depart with his army
in early June 323 B.C., he contracted a fever and the voyage was postponed. At
first the thirty-three-year-old general regarded his illness as nothing more
than a temporary setback. But Alexander continued to deteriorate until he lapsed into a deep coma
and died. Malaria, by striking Alexander, had altered the course of history. Had the
military leader survived, he might well have succeeded in uniting east and west,
fusing Greeks and Asians into a single nation. But in his absence, his empire
crumbled, his army collapsed. Still later, historians believe, malaria was instrumental
in the downfall of all Greek civilization by sapping the strength of the people
and depopulating the countryside.
In the fourth century A.D., Alaric, King of the Goths,
attacked Rome and triumphed. But
his triumph was short lived for he got sick with malaria and died soon after
entering the town.
The invading army of Attila (452 AD) was stopped in Rome
In 536 Belisarius, leading the army of the Eastern Empire, surrounded Rome,
planning to starve the city into submission. To facilitate their plan, the soldiers
ravaged the farms producing food and destroyed aqueducts to cut off the Roman
water supply. But they made a fatal error by digging their entrenchments in
the Campagna. With summer came malaria, which quickly decimated the ranks. Belisarius
himself was severely stricken with fever but survived, a beaten man.
Emperor Otto I attacked Rome in 964 to suppress a revolt
there but almost all his men died of malaria and those who still kept their health only dared to hope
to live from one evening to the next morning. On 7 Dec., 983, his eldest son,
Otto II, died of malaria at the age of 28 years in spite of
Frederick I, called Barbarossa, also failed in his attempt to conquer Rome. The army of Henry II was wiped out by malaria, but Henry
IV managed to besiege Rome four times, always withdrawing the bulk of his soldiers
during the summer months from the Campagna. The tiny force left behind was invariably
annihilated by fever.
Malaria probably played a part in dissuading Genghis
Khan (1162-1227) from invading Western Europe
After the death of Pope Alexander VI in 1503, his son Cesare Borgia
plotted to dominate all Italy. But shortly , Cesare contracted severe malaria
and was saved by his family doctor. By the time Cesare
Borgia recoverd, his opportunity
By the end of 15th century, Columbus dropped anchor at
the site of an old Indian village on Hispaniola to build a
fort and colony on his second voyage to the New World. After
a month, an epidemic of terrible fever afflicted the entire
party, including Columbus himself.
Malaria continued to spread throughout North America during the Revolutionary
War. Whole British garrisons are recorded as having succumbed to the disease,
and some historians even speculate that the eventual British surrender at Yorktown
may have been partly due to a severe fever epidemic.
One of the first military expenditures of the
Continental Congress, around 1775, was for $300 to buy
quinine to protect General Washington's troops.
Malaria and yellow fever kept Napoleon Bonaparte from
putting down the uprising in Hati in 1801
Malaria was used as a biological warfare agent in the Walcheren
Expedition in the Low Countries, when the
British were conquered by malaria before a battle could
be fought. Starting on July 30, 1809 a British armed force
of 39,000 men landed on Walcheren with a view to assisting
the Austrians in their war against Napoleon, and attacking
the French fleet moored at Flushing (Vlissingen). Napoleon
had consolidated his grip on the continent by defeating the
Austrians at Wagram earlier in the month. Napoleon
reportedly flooded the Holland
countryside to allow malaria to become rampant. Napoleon
reportedly stated: "We must oppose the English with nothing
but fever, which will soon devour them all." The British
Army expedition became so stricken between August and October of that
year that they were unable to sustain the campaign. In early August there were
fewer than 700 men sick, but by 3 September over 8000 were
in hospital. In late October 9000 troops were sick and
easily outnumbered those fit for duty. Hospitals were set up
in houses, churches, and warehouses, and conditions were
appalling. The typical treatment included laxatives and
emetics combined with other treatments such as venesection,
blistering, and dousing with cold water. Alcohol and tobacco
were regarded as panaceas. By the time the expedition ended
in February 1810 the fever had caused the death of 60
officers and 3900 soldiers. Over 40% of the force had been
struck down by disease, and six months later around 11000
men were still registered sick. This compared with only 100
killed in the sporadic fighting of what had become an
irrelevant military adventure. It has been estimated
that in all theatres of war between 1793 and 1815 the total
British losses were in the region of 240 000 men, with
probably less than 30 000 of these deaths being caused by
During the American civil war in 1861-1865, malaria
accounted for 1,316,000 episodes of illness and 10,000
deaths. It has been estimated that 50% of the white soldiers
and 80% of the black soldiers got malaria annually.
The Italian campaigns of French and Austrian armies in 1859
In the 1864
West African campaigns, the troops were defeated
by disease without the enemy ever seen or a "grain
of powder expended"
campaign in Madagascar in 1895 saw 13 deaths in action and
over 4,000 deaths due to malaria
World War I (1914–1918): In Macedonia, British, French,
and German armies were immobilized for 3 years by malaria.
On one occasion, when the French commanding general was
ordered to attack, he replied: "Regret that my army is in
hospital with malaria." Nearly 80 percent of 120,000 French
troops in this area were hospitalized with malaria. In an
average British strength of 124,000, there were 162,512
admissions to hospital for malaria during the years 1916 to
1918, in contrast to 23,762 killed, wounded, prisoner, and
missing in action. In the spring of 1918, about 25,000
British soldiers were sent home from Macedonia with chronic
malaria, and, apart from these evacuees, over 2,000,000
man-days were lost to the British Army in this area in 1918
because of malaria. Approximately 7.5/1,000 Americans
quartered in the U.S. were infected with malaria in 1917.
was asked to assist the British troops during the war and
as a consultant he followed the troops to Egypt, Gallipoli,
Salonika and Taranto. His health suffered during the war
and he lost his older son in the British retreat from Mons.
II: Many troops had to suffer
casualties by inflicted malaria even in World War II. Gen. Douglas MacArthur's predicament
in May 1943 is very clear: "This will be a long war
if for every division I have facing the enemy I must count
on a second division in hospital with malaria and a third
division convalescing from this debilitating disease!"
It appears that the general was not at all worried about
defeating the Japanese, but was greatly concerned about
the failure to defeat the Anopheles mosquito! 60,000 U.S.
troops died in Africa and the South Pacific from malaria.
U.S. Forces could succeed only after organising a successful
attack on malaria.
and use of synthetic antimalarial drugs and residual insecticides
like DDT were greatest "contributions" to malariology from
World War II. The dependency on quinine as the only antimalarial
was relieved and many new antimalarials like chloroquine,
amodiaquin, primaquine, proquanil and pyrimethamine came
Korean War (1950–1953): U.S. military hospitals were
inundated with cases of malaria, with as many as 629 cases
per week. More than 3,000 cases of malaria were documented
in U.S. troops that served during the war.
Vietnam War (1962–1975): Malaria felled more combatants
during the war than bullets. The disease reduced the combat
strength of some units by half. Over 40,000 cases of Malaria
were reported in US Army troops alone between 1965 and 70
with 78 deaths. The U.S. Army established a malaria drug
research program when U.S. troops first encountered drug
resistant malaria during the war. In 1967, the Chinese
scientists set up Project 523 - a secret military project -
to help the Vietnamese military defeat malaria
by developing artemisinin based anti malarial formulations.
Operation Restore Hope (1992–1994): Malaria was the No.
1 cause of casualties among US troops during the operation.
From the time of deployment through April 1993, malaria was
diagnosed in 48 military personnel. Malaria was diagnosed in
83 military personnel (21 Marine and 62 Army) following
their return from Somalia.
Malaria in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Liberia (2001–2003):
Many US soldiers in Iraq walked while eating just to avoid
being bitten and infected by mosquitoes. In October 2001, a falciparum
malaria epidemic that erupted in Afghanistan claimed 53
lives. When 290 marines went ashore in Liberia in September
2003, 80 contracted malaria. Of the 157 troops who spent at
least one night ashore, 69 became infected. In Liberia, over
a third of U.S. Marines sent in as military advisors to
oversee a civil transition have contracted malaria.
posed major problems during natural calamities. Outbreaks
of malaria was a problem during many major constructions like
that of the Suez canal and the Panama Canal. The Vatican was moved from a lower lying area to its present location, with
work beginning in 1574, due to malaria. Malaria continues to be challenge in
such situations even today.
Origin of Malaria
Parasite And Its Spread
History of Malaria And Its
Scientific Discoveries on Malaria
History of Malaria
History of Malaria
And Its Control In India