New Delhi, Aug 20 British doctor Sir Ronald Ross, after discovering on this day in 1897 that malaria parasite is carried by mosquito, had in a poem expressed optimism about the fight against the disease, not knowing then that it would still be one of the dreaded diseases 120 years later.
World Mosquito Day is observed on August 20 to commemorate his groundbreaking discovery and also to raise awareness about malaria and the ways to prevent it spread.
Born in British-India, Ross had confirmed the presence of the malarial parasite inside the gut of mosquito, which he originally identified as "dappled-wings" (which turned out to be species of the genus Anopheles).
On August 21, 1897, shortly after discovering malaria parasites in mosquitoes, Ross had penned an optimistic poem, according to a paper -- Developmental genomics of the most dangerous animal -- by Matthew P Scott.
The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) in 2007.
A few lines of the poem read, "'I know this little thing, A myriad men will save. O Death, where is thy sting? Thy victory, O Grave!," according to the paper.
But, in the 21st century, malaria continues to affect millions of people worldwide, including India, where Ross had made the discovery while working.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malaria killed 5,84,000 people across the world in 2013, with children under five accounting for at least three-fourths of those deaths.
WHO statistics for 2013 states that the working number for deaths due to malaria in India was 28,000 but could be as high as 46,000 per year.
Malaria was long thought to be caused by miasma from rotting vegetation and foul waters, and considered to be a particular risk in hot and humid climates.
"Earlier records contain Medical Topographies prepared by Indian Medical Officers to designate 'healthy' and 'unhealthy' areas to inform the construction of hospitals and barracks," according to the British Library.
The name malaria, comes from Italian words 'male' which means bad and 'aria' which means air. It was coined so, as the disease was then associated with odorous marshy land.
Malaria is caused by infection with protozoan parasites belonging to the genus Plasmodium transmitted by female Anopheles mosquitoes.
While in popular culture, an act of mosquito bite may have been treated with humour, the disease malaria, still sends shivers down people's spines, quite literally.
Besides, malaria, mosquitoes can cause a host of other diseases like dengue, chikungunya and Zika. Dengue and Zika are potentially life-threatening in nature.
While Ross is remembered most for his malaria work, we must note that he was also a mathematician, epidemiologist, sanitarian, editor, novelist, dramatist, poet, amateur musician, composer, and artist.
For his work on malaria transmission, Ross was warded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1902.
He died on September 16, 1932, after a long illness. KND NSD NSD