La malaria e le guerre


Many relevant episodes of the past show the role played by malaria over the centuries. Among those episodes we find the battle of Walcheren, where Napoleon might have used malaria as a biological weapon, the American Civil War and the two World Wars. As for the Second World War, much emphasis has been given to the so called “other battle of Cassino”, namely the battle fought against the mosquitoes, the vectors of the malaria infection, at the end of the war. The article also focuses on the part taken by malaria in the Korea and Vietnam Wars. As far as the latter is concerned, a positive side effect was represented by the tremendous efforts given by the government of the People’s Republic of China to the studies on new anti-malaria drugs, like the artemisinin derivatives. At present, artesunate is, among them, the best available drug against Plasmodium, although the emergence of drug resistance is now threatening the real effectiveness of malaria control measures. The relationship between malaria and contemporary wars, such as the one in Afghanistan, and the impact of the disease on the length of civil wars are also discussed.