Mosquitoes? Malaria? I don’t buy it.

by Mike

Question: Is malaria spread by the Anopheles mosquito?

Nowadays, we would say the answer is yes.

* * *

In July 1899, the answer was also yes. But it had been only a year or two since publication of the Nobel-winning work by Sir Ronald Ross which proved malaria was one of the diseases spread by mosquitoes.

Even for the best-supported hypothesis, there will be some evidence that points against it, and some people who are more easily convinced than others. Here’s a letter written by southern doctor Thomas W. Davis to the New York Medical Journal, pointing out that there is far from a perfect correlation between areas where man is made miserable by mosquitoes, and areas where man is made malarious by malaria. And therefore, in his opinion, the jury is still out regarding what sort of mechanism spreads this particular parasite from person to person.

Most of the NYMJ‘s readers and contributors could be expected to be northerners with little practical experience of the tropical disease in question, so Dr. Davis’s perspective is worth considering.


Source: New York Medical Journal (August 19, 1899), volume LXX, page 277.