Malaria Journal published its 2500th article today. The article by Rolling et al., comparing Artesunate and quinine for treating severe imported malaria shows how we are tackling this ancient disease today, but what did our ancestors make of the disease? At this important milestone for the journal, we look back at how human perceptions of the disease has changed over time with a review by Hempelman & Krafts published in the journal recently.
Throughout the ages, malaria has always been viewed as a mysterious disease and there were many explanations – and names – for it. The disease was once thought to be caused by ‘bad air’. Hippocrates even included it in his treatise “On Airs, Waters, and Places.”Strangely, the name we now use for the disease is derived from this early misconception: ‘mal’ ‘aria’ is from the Italian for bad air.
Today, we use antimalarials to treat the disease, but in the third century, Quintus Serenus Sammonicus, a physician to the Roman Emperor Caracalla, advised the wearing of an amulet with the word abracadabra on it to beat the disease. If that failed, the sufferer was told to rub lion fat on themselves.
Vector control has been an important step in eliminating the disease in many regions. Nets, sprays and removal of mosquito-friendly breeding grounds have all played a part in recent elimination programmes. However, back in ancient Egypt, they had their own vector control tool: garlic. Inscriptions on pyramids outline how much was spent on feeding radishes, onions and garlic to the workers constructing the pyramid.
At this milestone, the journal can look back at the outstanding articles it has published since 2002 and look forward to publishing landmark research in the future.