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BLOOD AND GUTS
Given below are excerpts from an article published in the British Medical Journal (18th Dec 1897) page 1386.
"For the last two years I have been endeavouring to cultivate the parasite of malaria in the mosquito. The method adopted has been to feed mosquitos, bred in bottles from the larva on patients having crescents in the blood. and then to examine their tissues for parasites similar to the hemamoeba in man. The study is a difficult one, as there is no a priori indication of what the desired parasite will be like precisely, nor in what particular species of insect the experiment will be successful, while the investigation requires a thorough knowledge of the minute anatomy of the mosquito......
"On August 16th eight of them were fed on a patient whose blood contained fair to few crescents (and also filariae). Unfortunately four were killed at once for the study of flagellate bodies (flagellate cysts). Of the remainder two were examined on the 18th and 20th respectively, without anything being noted. The seventh insect was also killed on the 20th, four days after having been fed. On turning to the stomach with an oil-immersion lens I was struck at once by the appearance of some cells which seemed to be slightly more substantial than the cells of the mosquito’s stomach usually are. They were a dozen of them lying among or within the cells of the upper half of the organ, and though somewhat more solid than these, still very delicate and colourless - so far it would have been impossible for any but a person very familiar with the insect’s anatomy to have distinguished them from the neighbouring cells: but what now arrested attention was the fact that each of these bodies contained a few granules of black pigment absolutely identical in appearance with the well-known and characteristic pigment of the parasite of malaria (large quartans and crescent-shaped spheres)."
Five years later on the 12th of December, 1902, the author described his feelings on that day in August in the small laboratory in Secunderabad, India.
"Almost instinctively I felt that here was something new - but was so tired with work and had been so often disappointed before that I did not at the moment recognize the value of the observation. After mounting the preparation I went home and slept for nearly an hour. On waking, my first thought was that the problem was solved; and so it was."
Those comments were made by Ronald Ross on receiving the second Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine. In later years that day came to be called "Mosquito Day."
Another historical problem that led students to examine some of the older literature. One group dealt with Ronald Ross as a scientist and explored the development of tropical medicine, the role of Patrick Manson and the imperialism of British India and the attitudes toward “natives”. Other aspects explored were the biology of malaria, knowledge of the condition at the turn of the century and our current awareness of the condition as well as the measures adopted to control it.
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