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Falciparum malaria may have infected Homo sapiens (and perhaps H erectus) in the Asia Pacific region for more than 100,000 years. This estimate is based on the gene frequency of alpha-thalassaemia, the protection it affords against falciparum malaria and assumptions of untreated mortality from the infection. Up until the end of the 19th century, there was a high mortality from malaria in the coastal parts of Malaya, but the malaria control campaign, begun in 1901 at Klang, was described by Sir Ronald Ross as the first successful antimalarial work in the (then) British Empire. This was extended to Singapore in 1911. When the Far Eastern Association of Tropical Medicine held its Fifth Biennial Congress in Singapore in 1923, malaria was still a major killing disease in parts of Malaya and Sarawak. The mechanism of life-threatening malaria involves cytoadherence of parasitised erythrocytes in microvascular beds, a process enhanced by the products of macrophage activation induced by malarial pyrogen. Improvements in the chemotherapy of life-threatening falciparum malaria with chloroquine and quinine have been countered by the emergence of resistant strains. Artemisinin derivatives may become the treatment of choice during the coming decade. Apart from traditional anti-mosquito methods, control of malaria now involves the use of insecticide-impregnated bed nets, new entomological strategies, including genetic manipulation of mosquitoes and selective chemoprophylaxis. Antigenic diversity and antigenic variation of the malaria parasite have so far defeated attempts to produce an effective vaccine.


Journal article


Annals of the Academy of Medicine, Singapore

Publication Date





380 - 387


Centre for Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headington, United Kingdom.


Humans, Malaria, Cerebral, Malaria, Falciparum, Tropical Climate, History, Ancient, History, 19th Century, History, 20th Century, Malaysia, Singapore