Malaria Home > History of Malaria

Malaria was first mentioned over 4,000 years ago. Symptoms of malaria were described in ancient Chinese medical writings, and the disease was widely recognized in Greece by the fourth century BCE. Throughout malaria's history, there have been many epidemics involving the disease (such as the one that developed among workers on the Panama Canal). Since eradication efforts began in the twentieth century, the number of malaria cases in the United States decreased; in 1951, the disease was considered to be eradicated from the U.S.

Malaria's History: An Introduction

The history of malaria, or a disease resembling malaria, goes back many thousands of years. In fact, symptoms of malaria were first described more than 4,000 years ago, and malaria has probably influenced human populations and human history to a great extent.
 

Ancient History of Malaria (2700 BCE-340 CE)

The symptoms of malaria were described in ancient Chinese medical writings. In 2700 BC, several characteristic symptoms of what would later be named malaria were described in the Nei Ching, The Canon of Medicine. Nei Ching was edited by Emperor Huang Ti.
 
Malaria became widely recognized in Greece by the fourth century BCE, and it was responsible for the decline of many of the city-state populations. Hippocrates noted the principal malaria symptoms. In the Susruta, a Sanskrit medical treatise, the symptoms of malarial fever were described and attributed to the bites of certain insects. A number of Roman writers attributed malarial diseases to the swamps.
 
In China, during the second century BCE, the Qinghao plant (Artemisia annua L.) was described in the medical treatise, 52 Remedies, found in the Mawangdui Tomb. In the United States, this plant is known as the annual or sweet wormwood. In 340 CE, the anti-fever properties of Qinghao were first described by Ge Hong of the East Yin Dynasty. The active ingredient of Qinghao was isolated by Chinese scientists in 1971. Known as artemisinin, it is today a very potent and effective malaria medication, especially in combination with other medicines.
 
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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