Disease History

Malaria has been noted by many ancient writers, such as Hippocrates, for more than 4,000 years. The name “Malaria” originally breaks down to “mal” meaning “bad” and “aria” meaning “air.” This disease used to be thought to be caused by “bad air” or “miasma” in which some people “cured” by simply freshening the air (but this was never a very effective treatment).

Malaria is an ancient disease that has split into multiple strains from the Plasmodium parasite. This disease is carried by many vectors (agents who carry and transmit sickness), which means that the severity and presentation of this disease is incredibly varied. Malaria is indigenous to the “Old World” and was transferred to the “New World” (aka pre-discovered America) through means of Spanish explorers and African slaves, where the disease thrived in the musty and wet environment of the long traveling ships.

*Not So Fun Fact* George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy all had Malaria.


The symptoms of Malaria are: blood in urine, anemia, retinal damage, vomiting, fever (up to 110 degrees), joint pain, and intermittent fevers and/or chills. The main vector of this disease is the Anopheles mosquito, which can carry any of the over 200 variations of the parasite. A more microscopic depiction of Malaria looks like this:

Breakdown and Transmission

The Plasmodium parasite has a complex lifecycle. It starts with the Anopheles mosquito biting a human, from there, sporozoites are released into the human body. The sporozoites meet up in the liver where they then multiply and turn into merozoites. The merozoites feed on the hemoglobin found in red blood cells and when they (the red blood cells) have been depleted and destroyed, a toxin is released that spreads the disease.


Before 1700, the treatments for Malaria consisted of bloodletting, purging, and variations of applying Quinine. There were also more natural remedies that came from herbs such as sweet wormwood. In fact, the Chinese used this herb, officially Artemisia annua, for more than 2,000 years to treat Malaria as well as hemorrhoids. In the 1600’s, the cinchona bark was used a means of treatment as well.

The cinchona bark was a great breakthrough in medicine at the time. It was served mostly in a tea form and, while it did not cure Malaria, it did very much help treat the symptoms. The tree bark, which contains quinine, can help kill germs and parasites, reduce fevers, regulate heartbeat, stimulate digestion, dry secretions, and relieve general pains. While the quinine in the bark was not able to be extracted and used by itself for treatment until the early 1800’s, the usage of the cinchona tree bark tea was a big step in treating the disease. Today, we still use the bark to treat maladies that range from arrhythmia to leg cramps.

Cited Links:

Cover Photo:http://mashable.com/2010/09/20/social-media-malaria/ http://mashable.com/2010/09/20/social-media-malaria/

Microscopic Photo: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malaria

General Overview and History of Malaria:http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/about/history/


Presidents and Malaria: http://www.impatientoptimists.org/Posts/2012/01/Cherry-Trees-Log-Cabins-and-Malaria

Sporozoites: http://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Sporozoites

Merozoites: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/merozoite


Cinchona Tree: http://www.rain-tree.com/quinine.htm