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The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years

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In recent years, malaria has emerged as a cause célèbre for voguish philanthropists. Bill Gates, Bono, and Laura Bush are only a few of the personalities who have lent their names—and opened their pocketbooks—in hopes of curing the disease. Still, in a time when every emergent disease inspires waves of panic, why aren’t we doing more to eradicate one of our oldest foes? And how does a parasitic disease that we’ve known how to prevent for more than a century still infect 500 million people every year, killing nearly 1 million of them?

In The Fever , the journalist Sonia Shah sets out to answer these questions, delivering a timely, inquisitive chronicle of the illness and its influence on human lives. Through the centuries, she finds, we’ve invested our hopes in a panoply of drugs and technologies, and invariably those hopes have been dashed. From the settling of the New World to the construction of the Panama Canal, through wars and the advances of the Industrial Revolution, Shah tracks malaria’s jagged ascent and the tragedies in its wake, revealing a parasite every bit as persistent as the insects that carry it. With distinguished prose and original reporting from Panama, Malawi, Cameroon, India, and elsewhere, The Fever captures the curiously fascinating, devastating history of this long-standing thorn in the side of humanity.

320 pages, Hardcover

First published June 29, 2010

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About the author

Sonia Shah

15 books315 followers
Sonia Shah is a science journalist and prize-winning author. Her writing on science, politics, and human rights has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Scientific American and elsewhere. Her work has been featured on RadioLab, Fresh Air, and TED, where her talk, “Three Reasons We Still Haven’t Gotten Rid of Malaria” has been viewed by over 1,000,000 people around the world. Her 2010 book, The Fever, which was called a “tour-de-force history of malaria” (New York Times), “rollicking” (Time), and “brilliant” (Wall Street Journal) was long-listed for the Royal Society’s Winton Prize. Her new book, Pandemic: Tracking Contagions from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, is forthcoming from Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux in February 2016.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 187 reviews
Profile Image for Alysa.
74 reviews13 followers
June 7, 2015
I'm going to start this review by noting that I am a malaria researcher, myself, and thus am already familiar with much of the material Shah presented in this book. This, of course, affects the way I read the book and my perception of it.

My first gripe with the book is that, to me, the story seemed to be set up in a strange way. The author seems to have broken the book up into a short discussion of the parasite (Plasmodium species), a moderate length discussion on the host (humans, in this case), and a lengthy discussion on the vector (mosquito, Anopheles species). While it is important to understand the roles of all three species in understanding malaria's history and continued prevalence, the way this is done seems to skip out on things in the early chapters without mentioning that they will be discussed later, and then talk about various things in later chapters without tying back to things that were discussed earlier. Perhaps this is evident to me already coming in with a background in the subject, but would not be as evident to those who are unfamiliar with malaria research.

My other issue with the book is that the author, who is a journalist, not a scientist, is clearly trying to tell a story rather than simply presenting the facts (which, frankly, would not be all that interesting and is what we have scientific journals for). As a result, however, there is sometimes a slant to the story, and it feels that we're not getting the whole picture. Also, the sarcastic tone that seems to be present here and there makes it difficult for me to take the author seriously.

Also, the author does point this out, but I think the point is not belabored well enough: MALARIA EXIST OUTSIDE OF AFRICA, TOO. Papua New Guinea has one of the highest malaria rates in the world and is mentioned roughly twice in this book? But this is not an issue strictly defined to this book—much of it has to do with all of the malaria eradication and elimination programs that seem to forget that when we talk about the developing world and infectious disease, we don't just mean Africa.

That being said, this book is absolutely full of fascinating information. If you have an interest in malaria, infectious disease, epidemiology, public health, human history, or whatever, certainly read this book. It's relatively well written and the information is pretty accurate and up to date. You will definitely learn something (or many things!) about malaria.
Profile Image for Kate .
236 reviews92 followers
July 27, 2011
Disclosure: This follows on the heels of Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, and I am an avid consumer of epidemiological histories, like And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic (an all-time favorite book of mine) which indubidably biased my reading of The Fever.

The Fever suffers from being too short. I trying to be too many things in 240 pages+footnotes: a cultural history, an environmental and ecological history, a popular science work of microbiology and entymology, and a post-colonial history. The fascinating thing about malaria is that any book on this disease must be all of these things. And no author, no matter how good, can do that well in a book this short, a choice I'm sure that was made by an editor trying to capitalize on malaria's recent resurgence as a cause celebre(covered in the last chapter) with out scaring off a book reading public scared of anything over 300 pages.

Shah gives it the old college try, though, and a reader of The Fever will uncover a lot of facts with some trite but spot on analysis. One point I found fascinating:

Malaria was a global phenomenon until lthe early 20th century and its prevalence until then accounts for the lack of habitation or agriculture in many otherwise arable and habitable places that remain relative uninhabited today: rural Georgia and Alabama, for example. It was fascinating to me that a disease that is today associated so heavily with the tropics would be responsible for the poor settlement of places like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where my mother's family is from: a decidedly non-tropical locale. Malaria did not recede from the developed world through aggressive tactics like those practiced in poor, tropical countries today, however. It receded because development destroyed mosquito habitats and increased herds of farm animals were more attractive sources of food for those mosquitos that remained. Shah gives the lie to people like economist Jeffrey Sachs, who claim that malaria creates poverty and eradicating malaria will also eradicate it: Poverty, she points, out, can create malaria, too.

Shah is also very good when it comes to the malaria and drug development, and makes a really interesting point that Siddhartha Mukerjee also makes in The Emperor of All Maladies. There is an almost militant and religious dedication to high-tech solutions to diseases from malaria to cancer. These high-tech solutions have their draw backs, however: they are incredibly expensive, result expensive therapies, and here's the kicker for malaria - rarely work as well as wormwood or quinine and, because of their high specificity, are theoretically more likely to generate resistant strains. In both cases, new chemotherapies are just as likely to be found through the classic stab in the dark methods as they are through high-tech engineering. Yet we chase high-tech methods because, as Shah notes, they are 'economy building.'

I really would have loved to hear more about the modern drug development efforts being made, and the efforts being made to deliver the drugs to malarious countries. I do believe, like a Nigerian health official quoted in the last chapter, that we have to find a way to manufacture these drugs in situ, as opposed to manufacturing them outside and then shipping them in, with all of the extra costs and difficulties that ensures.

This is highly recommended as an introduction to the history and current state of the epidemiology and treatment of malaria.
Profile Image for Casey.
629 reviews31 followers
June 24, 2019
This book was a fairly easy read, despite being quite dense with information. I've always been curious about malaria, and I learned a lot about the history, the science, and the attempts to eradicate the disease.

Lately, I've been reading books on the American Revolution, yet not once has malaria been mentioned. (Yellow fever, yes.) That seems like an egregious oversight, especially since malaria was an epidemic all through the New England colonies during those times. Also the history books on the Civil War -- malaria killed more than the battles, yet I don't remember any mention of malaria. Why?

Highly recommended!
Profile Image for Nancy.
1,248 reviews44 followers
October 25, 2011
Malaria is a complex disease that cannot be summed up in a slogan or sound-bite. Ms. Shah does a good job of covering both how malaria affects people and the larger impact on history. She explains why control of malaria is much more difficult than for other diseases.

For me the book bogged down a bit in the middle as she reported battle after battle in wars over thousands of years where the outcome was determined by malaria. Once she made that point and moved to the science and politics of modern eradication efforts, the book really picked up for me. Well worth reading!
Profile Image for Praxedes Rivera.
420 reviews11 followers
December 26, 2012
My colleague Katherine Robinson recommended this book. Exquisitely researched, it brings to light the way malaria has shaped human history, politics, and economics. The book is quite comprehensive and a bit depressing, since this virus seems to outwit us at every turn: and the few times we might have had the upper hand are squandered among competing interests (no surprise there!). Very, very nice.
Profile Image for Wim.
294 reviews33 followers
June 2, 2020
I enjoyed this book on the history of malaria: the disease had an enormous impact, shaping human history at several critical junctures in the past. Most of it was unknown to me: from the Roman empire to the colonisation of North America, how the slave trade deepened, how Scotland lost its independence, how malaria was part of World War strategies, ... very fascinating!

I also liked the elaborate parts on the complexity of malaria, the parasite Plasmodium and its Anopheles vector. The first time I studied the Plasmodium life cycle was for my zoology exam at university when I was 19, one week before I suffered an outbreak of Plasmodium vivax (probably picked up in Togo the year before...). This time I suffered from migraines while reading the book (due to sinusite, not malaria), bringing the disease experience somehow closer to me (and preventing me from finish this fast read earlier!).

Shah does a very good job underlining the illusion of silver bullets (whether it be medication, mosquito repellent such as DDT or a vaccin) and the importance of community awareness and participation. I found it very striking when she compared our indifferent attitude towards cars that continue to kill and the reasoning of people affected by malaria: somehow the importance of fighting against these causes of death is played down.

As conclusion, she seems to suggest that the solution of malaria is more the advent of development and the end of poverty. This seems to be the way malaria left more temperate regions. Interesting, but Shah should have elaborated more on this. How come there is no more malaria in Europe and North America, while Anopheles is still thriving? It seems to be more a coincidental situation than one of deliberate measures towards malaria eradication... what lessons can we learn from this for malaria eradication in more tropical regions? And to prevent malaria from reintroducing itself in temperate regions?
Profile Image for Anne-Marie.
501 reviews2 followers
March 28, 2020
If you’re looking for a well researched, thematic examination of malaria’s role in human history, I’d recommend checking this one out. While it doesn’t hold your hand through all the science and public health concepts, it’s still very accessible to a general audience. Researchers will enjoy the vast bibliography in the back of all works cited. The writing itself is fine - clear and concise with an approachable tone.

For me, I have a decent understanding of malaria’s general transmission, epidemiology, public health efforts, and some general history (ex. Panama Canal). That said, I did learn a lot of specific historical examples of malaria’s impact on humans (Scotland’s attempt at New Caledonia in the Caribbean (not to be confused with the actual New Caledonia in Oceania) comes to mind), more detail on the various Plasmodium species, and the historical efforts of eradication and control. Not to mention a more cohesive and integrated understanding of malaria’s role in history and human health.

The key takeaway for me is just how racist and grounded in human ignorance and poor science the history of malaria is, and in many ways continues to be. Shah alludes to this more than directly accusing or referring to people or organizations as discriminatory/racist; however, she makes it clear how unacceptable these behaviours were and are.

Because this text was published in 2010, a lot of the numbers and in/active programmes aren’t up to date for a 2020 audience. It’s still quite relevant, however. And Shah gives you plenty of references and jumping off points to continue your own research.

I will say I wish it had been longer - 240 pages is enough for a solid introduction, but I feel I could have benefited from a longer and more in-depth examination of malaria.

Overall if you have an interest in malaria and want to get a good, solid, well-researched introduction to the disease, its history and epidemiology, and how humans have been impacted and continue to be impacted, I recommend picking up The Fever.
Profile Image for Jay C.
336 reviews45 followers
July 4, 2017
A very educational read for me, on a topic I admittedly knew very little about when I began reading. Almost a chronicle of humanity's naïveté or arrogance in the way that our imagined solutions to "the Malaria problem" continued and in many cases continue to be defeated. Even though we can "do the math" I think it's still hard for humans to fully appreciate the sheer numbers and "generational turnover" of our insect and parasite foes. Very thought-providing reading, leaving me wanting to learn more.
1,359 reviews32 followers
June 4, 2011
good history and easy-to-digest science regarding why malaria has been so devastating and so resistant to eradication efforts. Because a couple of my nephews went to a high school run by Jesuits, I was interested in the anecdote that Oliver Cromwell and other Protestants derided cinchona as "Jesuit's powder" and refused to use this malaria treatment, in Cromwell's case at the cost of his life. Jesuit missionaries had seen the cinchona bark work in South America and tried to bring it to Europe. Other treatments have come from ancient Chinese medicine, from manufacturing of synthetic chemicals, etc. etc. But they all have proven imperfect so far because the disease develops drug resistance, or the fix creates its own problems (e.g., spraying DDT on everything), or adherence is poor (depressing chapter on insecticide-treated bed nets was news to me in this respect), or all of the above.

Some good background on how it was discovered (and only slowly accepted) that mosquitoes were responsible for spreading the disease, as well as what an enormous impact malaria has had. Not an uplifting book but informative.
1,178 reviews16 followers
July 28, 2021
Really enjoyed this history of malaria and how it’s affected the world. This is really great for the lay reader and doesn’t dive too far down into the weeds on anything, unlike some other histories of malaria, and it doesn’t focus excessively on Europe or America and their eradication efforts. It has a more global look, and of course does have a lot about Africa.

I did not come out of it with any idea of what should be done about malaria - as the author notes, after everything that has been tried malaria has always come back stronger than before, and even in places it’s been eradicated it’s not a given for it to stay away. A lot has happened in malaria research in the years since this book was published, so hopefully the conclusions will prove to be wrong, but there is a good reason why malaria has been in lockstep with humans for so many hundreds of thousands of years.

Really great book.
Profile Image for Colleen.
1,127 reviews10 followers
September 11, 2022
Fascinating and fairly thorough history of the struggle between human beings and malaria over millennia. The author uses the fight against malaria as a sort of microcosm to demonstrate the workings of racism, colonialism and imperialism. Some of the things she warned about near the end of the book, over a decade ago are coming to fruition now. Well worth a read if you are interested in public health, disease or ecology
Profile Image for David.
46 reviews3 followers
August 27, 2022
Buen ensayo de divulgación sobre la malaria. Interesante, bien documentado y escrito. Repasa las diferentes perspectivas de la enfermedad. Quizás lo más interesante es el relato histórico de todos los procesos.
Profile Image for Avery Cox.
23 reviews
March 13, 2023
probably worth more than 2 stars, but read for class and is not my chosen subject matter- so very boring to me
Profile Image for João Conrado.
54 reviews1 follower
September 15, 2022
É um livro interessante para se obter uma visão mais global da malária, inserida em contexto histórico. Contudo a ordem escolhida para os capítulos não tem uma lógica muito clara. Apesar de bem referenciado, tenho dúvidas sobre a acurácia de algumas informações apresentadas.
Profile Image for Paul.
65 reviews8 followers
January 1, 2014
You know you’re into something special when you open a book randomly and find something compelling on every page.

Sonia Shah performs a great balancing act in delivering the complexities of malarial science while keeping the storytelling brisk and riveting.

The long history of the disease also provides her with rich pickings and some great anecdotes like that of Oliver Cromwell.

He spurned one of the best and most effective treatments of the day, the ground-up bark of the cinchona tree, because it had been brought to Europe by Jesuit missionaries.

Anti-Catholic sentiment saw him dismiss it as “Jesuit’s Powder” and at 59 he died, 20 years after its introduction from South America. Had he tried it and survived would Britain’s constitutional monarchy ever have made a return?

Another tale recalls sufferer Sir Walter Raleigh who, when captive in the Tower of London, prayed not to have a malarial fit on the scaffold in case people thought he was shivering with fear.

And harking back to Roman times, there’s a story about Julius Caesar being struck down with malaria while, paradoxically, the disease-riddled swamps around the imperial city kept besieging foreign armies at bay.

There’s more to this book than mere anecdotes though. There’s much to think about in Shah’s view of how the disease affected the culture and demography of the United States, creating “deep cultural prejudices…that persist to this day”.

In documenting previous efforts to thwart the disease, she relates how drugs have been misused, strategies ill-thought out and quick fix “solutions” have been anything but.

Environmental disturbance, climate change and mass movement of people have all been exploited by the parasite which continues to plague mankind.

Attempts to combat the illness have occupied some of the world’s finest minds and have cost billions of dollars but it continues to survive and thrive.

The lesson of the book is that there is no silver bullet, no single solution; nets, drugs, new technologies and good intentions cannot succeed on their own.

Without accompanying improvements to countries’ infrastructure in areas like schools, roads, clinics, housing and good governance any short-term gains will be swiftly overturned and newer, more virulent forms of malaria will return with a vengeance.
Profile Image for Richard.
1,147 reviews1,043 followers
Want to read
October 17, 2015
The New York Times reviewed The Fever on July 26, 2010, in Drama! Intrigue! A Mystery? No, Malaria’s Story .

With global warming climate change, malaria will undoubtedly return to the United States, so this looks like a good book to preview coming attractions. As the New York Times reports, Dengue fever is already back in Florida and likely to move up the eastern seaboard, and — astonishingly — the United States Centers for Disease Control is closing its “vector-borne” disease branch:
The disease centers confirmed that the 2011 budget does eliminate financing for the “vector-borne” disease branch, which tracks dengue, West Nile virus, plague, encephalitis and other illnesses carried by insects.
Is malaria one of these “other illnesses carried by insects”? Itching minds want to know...

Note: malaria is carried by mosquitoes of the genus Anopheles, whereas dengue, as well as yellow fever and Chikungunya come courtesy of the genus Aedes. Both genii survive in North America, and these diseases are almost non-existent becase "transmission has been interrupted through successful control/elimination programs", per the CDC. However, as temperatures rise, "transmission will be more intense" and will be "transmitted year-round". Combined with declining budgets, declining scientific awareness and the many other critical problems "climate change" is likely to bring, it seems like a good bet that malaria (et al) will become endemic in the southern United States.
1 review
February 18, 2012
Sonia Shah hates mosquitoes, as do I.

I have occassion to help diaganosis Malaria, in an east coast medical center. When a patient is diagnosed, it is usually someone who was originally from a malaria infested area who has been living in the US (legal or otherwise). He or she goes back for a visit; and as they had not used anti-malaral medicines in their youth, they see no reason to spend the money. And when they come back they are sick with fever. Before reading Shah's explaination of limited local immunity (due to the specific mosquito and specific strain of malaria), and the lack of immunity that happens, when the individual is absent from the specific locality for period of time. Shah took me by the hand and lead me through the tangle of information to a point of understanding.

The levels of historical, geopolictical, scientific, and pharmacological links abound from:
* the rise and fall of the Roman empire
* the colonization of the New World
* the fate of various wars
* the influence on the American slave trade.

To anyone, who had an intrest in world history, history of medicine and/or contemporary world politics and enconomics; this is a must read.

Why four stars and not five?
1. Sometimes the writing style is not as inviting as I would like.
2. Some mention of the use of Rapid Malaria testing cassettes and their acceptance should have been made.
3. Some graphs, maps and pictures would have added to the matter.

But again a great effort and a worthy read.
103 reviews
September 18, 2021
A fascinating book about the history of Malaria. More than 300,000 million fall ill with Malaria each year with almost 1 million dying from it. I was surprised to learn that malaria didn't have a foothold in North America until it was brought here by slaves from Africa in the 1600s. Where Malaria is a part of life and endemic, people develop a level of immunity to it. The slaves stolen from Africa rarely became seriously ill, but the Europeans and Indigenous peoples who had never experienced an outbreak often died from it. Malaria affected people living in the South and as well in the north east of the USA and at one point in time it was felt that the "West" would never be populated because Malaria would kill most of the settlers on route. Malaria debilitated and killed enormous numbers of soldiers in the World Wars (both in Europe - Italy! and in the Pacific) and seriously sickened US troops in during the Vietnam war. I think the most enlightening parts of the book had to do with the actions of big pharma and the politics and economics of Malaria. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Shana Yates.
757 reviews14 followers
April 11, 2016
This book was OK. The pros: good introduction into malaria, it's impact and longevity on human society, and the mechanisms of its infection and treatment. The cons: the author spends way too much time anthropomorphizing the parasite (and in doing so, hits all my pet peeves in discussing how the thing mutates and evolves and imbuing such changes with direction and forethought) and is sometimes a little disorganized. Overall, perfectly fine book if you'd like some context and history of malaria, but be prepared to have the author describe the parasite as plotting and maneuvering, rather than just describing the constant arms race all living things engage in (where the mutations are not intended or directed, but happen by accident and bestow increased survival and thus - without having aimed to do it - end up in the next generation).
967 reviews53 followers
December 23, 2010
I thought at first this would be a dry book about the history of malaria. Far from it - an interesting survey of malaria - its symptoms, history, treatment. Malaria, through mosquitoes, has always been intertwined with human history, its politics, warfare, social aspirations. What the author seems to emphasize, and I agree, is that there is no ultimate cure or vaccine for malaria. It's always going to be with us, apparently, and progress against (both because of the adaptability of the parasite and human neglect and error) it is a matter of constant ongoing struggle. Victories will be partial at best.
Profile Image for Lorraine M. Thompson.
90 reviews3 followers
February 20, 2011
This is a must-read for anyone who is interested in malaria, its history and the world's current approach to treatment. I will give a more thorough review once my notes and I are in the same room. For now, I must say that this was one of the most well-written and well-researched book on malaria that I have read in a long time. Kudos to the author. The one thing I would encourage the author to do is to include drawings/ diagrams / photos which could have greatly facilitated the reader's understanding at a glance (I could image some really great caricatures that she could have included that would have gone well with her writing style).
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,456 reviews15 followers
May 11, 2018
(3.5 stars) This book is a chronicle of malaria. The author goes into the history of the disease, its complex lifecycle and how it has factored into the course of human history. She also relates some of the progress and failures in controlling it. While I knew some of the facts, the author came up with some intriguing new insights. For example, malaria led to demise of Scotland as a separate country, and some of the less well known impacts of the disease on the United States and the building of the Panama Canal. She also goes into the pitfalls of current aid efforts to knock out the disease in Africa. Overall, this was a thoughtful and interesting review.
Profile Image for Margaret Sankey.
Author 9 books208 followers
July 24, 2011
The pervasive and endemic effects of malaria and their shaping of world history, from the edge farmers had over hunter-gatherers, the upside of sickle cell anemia, fava beans and Mediterranean malaria, the spiteful 19th century medical researchers, patents and drug companies, charity mosquito nets and Dutch East India Company quinine skulduggery. Also a reminder to take Malarone religiously (and G&Ts, just to be safe.)
Profile Image for Alison.
68 reviews
April 7, 2011
My family did not want to indulge me in discussing this book (because they are very fragile), but I swear this isn't some scare-your-pants-off Hot Zone thriller. It's just an interesting look at a disease that's been with us and shaped our civilizations and cultures since we were more great ape than human. Informative if a bit scattered in organization.
Profile Image for Wendy.
542 reviews
February 18, 2011
I really liked this book. I felt like I was learning but I wasn't bored for a second. However, I am not despondent about ever eradicating malaria. People are too stupid, selfish and greedy to all work together to get rid of it. I am angry at the world.
Profile Image for Michelle.
2,339 reviews57 followers
May 20, 2011
VERY interesting exploration of malaria, its evolution through history, how it has affected humans, how we try to fight it, and why it's not working. Fascinating.
182 reviews
October 2, 2015
Interesting and engaging read. Ties together the biological, public health, political and economic elements involved in the history of malaria.
Profile Image for Anil Dhingra.
643 reviews7 followers
July 18, 2021
I want to start my review by 3 statements
1. We have seen what taking covid lightly has done. Malaria has been taken lightly for the past 5 thousand years. It will continue to kill for the next hundred years if we don't take it as seriously and covid.
2. If you have to read one book on malaria pick this up. The author is not a doctor but a journalist. Bill gates has also recommended it ( he is a huge sponsor of anti malarial program).
3. I understand malaria, the plasmodium and the anopheles well and have been following their journey since 1975.
So this book is written in a very easy to read format, almost like a novel. Yet the amount of information researched and revealed by the author is astonishing and a pleasure to learn for malaraliogists and others interested in learning about the disease.
Sonia Shah brings to life the plasmodium, making it appear like a person struggling for survival in the face of enemies through the centuries.
Amazing to learn the following pearls
1. It has been unfashionable and unprofitable for countries, drs, researchers, financiers, journalists etc to focus on malaria. If it had received the attention given to cardiology, cancer, AIDS, we would know and learn more about it. Almost 80% of the world's population don't know that malaria still exists and kills.
2. Malaria cause was identified only in 1880 but the author traces it from the Roman Empire. Julius Caesar suffered from malaria even as the disease, paradoxically, prevented invaders from entering Rome.
3. Scotland only agreed to join United Kingdom because it was under heavy debt after taking funds for investment in New Caledonia in the Caribbean where malaria killed and caused a retreat by the scanty survivors.
4. 50 thousand soldiers suffered from malaria in 1917 during world war 1 but never reported because the killer Flu which followed cornered all the attention.
5. Africa remained safe despite its rich resources because of malaria which killed the invaders.
6. Though Ronald Ross received the Nobel prize for his work on malaria in India, it was actually his colleague Manson who deserves it. Ross only made a lot of noise ( like the current day twitter) and died in 1932 a very bitter man as his papers always had a lot of critics.
7. It were the Chinese who discovered the artemisinunate cure for the resistant malaria but hid it from the world for 30 years as a military strategy. Even after the publication by the Chinese no one took them seriously till 2004.
8. WHO has always been behind the curve and read the malaria situation wrongly. It is only the private NGOs funded by Bill gates, EXXON mobile and other oil companies who have brought attention back to malaria.
There is a lot of other information.
Recommended strongly especially for doctors interested in tropical medicine.
Profile Image for P D.
547 reviews7 followers
January 13, 2018
4.5 stars

A very approachable history of malaria, one that integrates human behavior into the story more thoroughly than a more biology-oriented book would. Not that Shah skimps on the science; we do learn the basics of the parasite's life cycle, as well as the way it flourishes in only certain Anopheles vectors, which in turn are adapted to specific niches.

I think Shah makes a strong argument for her thesis; colonialism and imperialism were significantly impacted by the presence of malaria - consider the multiple failed attempts to build the Panama Canal, as well as both failed and successful invasions into Africa - without ever making it sound as if malaria by itself was the sole guidance throughout these exploits. The discussion of inequities in the historical treatment of malaria is interesting as well, because in a sense it's flipped the other way today: philanthropists like Bill Gates seem to be obsessed with connecting the end of malaria to the end of poverty (and if you aren't familiar with how the Gates Foundation has completely taken over even the WHO's approach to malaria, sometimes flying in the face of proven methodology, and not exactly doing a great job of letting locals take the lead, you should read up on it).

In general the narrative is the interwoven story of scientific advancements - including a number of significant missteps - with historical episodes where malaria had an outsized impact. There's also excellent segments detailing her experiences with the groups where malaria is endemic, because their reaction to it is so different from the way we in the West approach it. (On a related note, I found out one of my uncles had dengue over the summer and was like, how was this not major news?! Answer: because, while it's considered sensible to avoid excessive outdoor exposure during a dengue outbreak, it's not the worst thing to happen in tropical areas.)

I am curious as to how much of the malaria story ties into generalities around tropical diseases during these time periods - granted, Shah does highlight the unique challenges around a disease whose parasite goes through, what, 7 different forms and multiple species.

That said, I totally relate to the bits about being the most delicious morsel when you go visit your relatives overseas. (My asshole cousin always snuck into the mosquito net, so I just slathered myself with Odomos before bed.)
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