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Malaria remains a serious clinical and public health problem, the object of an ongoing technological and humanitarian struggle to abate the very substantial harm done. The manner by which humanity approached malaria control changed abruptly and profoundly after 1945 with the advent of the insecticide DDT. Malariologists in the first half of the twentieth century conceived precise modifications to natural or man-made environments aimed at making those less hospitable to specific anopheline mosquito vector species. This practical malariology achieved very significant reductions in burdens of morbidity and mortality, but the revolutionary insecticide eliminated the need for its specialized knowledge and diverse practices. By 1970 mosquito resistance to DDT and perceived environmental concerns precipitated the collapse of what had been a vigorous global campaign to eradicate malaria. Humanity did not then revitalize practical malariology but turned to another commodity as the foundation of control strategy, the war-spurred suite of synthetic antimalarial drugs developed in the 1940s and 1950s. When those drugs became lost to parasite resistance in the latter twentieth century, malaria resurged globally. Since 2005, tens of billions of dollars mobilized new commodities to control malaria: point-of-care diagnostics, effective artemisinin-based treatments, and longer-lasting insecticide treated bed nets. The know-how of practical malariology is not part of that ongoing commodities-based strategy. This article examines contemporary malaria control in the broad strokes of a strategy mitigating the consequences of infection contrasted to that of the abandoned practical malariology strategy of prevention. The inherent risks and limitations of over-reliance upon commodities in striving to control malaria may prompt consideration of a strategic posture inclusive of the proven methods of practical malariology.

Original publication




Journal article


BMC Public Health

Publication Date





Control, History, Malaria, Malariology, Prevention, Species sanitation, Strategy, Animals, Anopheles, DDT, Forecasting, History, 20th Century, History, 21st Century, Humans, Insecticide-Treated Bednets, Malaria, Mosquito Control