Malaria Home > History of Malaria

Early Seventeenth Century

Following their arrival in the New World, the Spanish learned of a medicine used for the treatment of fevers. Spanish Jesuit missionaries in South America learned of a medicinal bark from indigenous Indian tribes. With this bark, the Countess of Chinchón, the wife of the viceroy of Peru, was cured of her fever. The bark from the tree was then called Peruvian bark, and the tree was named Cinchona, after the countess. The medicine from the bark is now known as the anti-malaria medicine, quinine. Along with artemisinin, quinine is one of the most effective malaria medicines available today.

Discovering the Malaria Parasite (1880)

In 1880, Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran, a French army surgeon stationed in Constantine, Algeria, was the first to notice parasites in the blood of a patient suffering from malaria. For his discovery, Laveran was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1907.

Malaria and Its Types (1886)

Camillo Golgi, an Italian neurophysiologist, established that there were at least two forms of the disease: one with a fever every other day, and one with a fever every third day. He also observed that the forms produced differing numbers of new parasites upon maturity, and that fever coincided with the rupture and release of the new parasites into the bloodstream. He was awarded a Nobel Prize for his discoveries in neurophysiology in 1906.

Malaria Naming

The Italian investigators Giovanni Batista Grassi and Raimondo Filetti first introduced the names Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium malariae for two of the malaria parasites that affect humans, in 1890. An American, William H. Welch, reviewed the subject and, in 1897, he named the malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. There were many arguments against the use of this name; however, the use was so extensive in the literature that a change back to the name given by Laveran was no longer thought possible. In 1922, John William Watson Stephens described the fourth human malaria parasite, Plasmodium ovale.
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