Remembering Ronald Ross: How he discovered cure to Malaria while working in India

The complex and high interesting field of diseases and viruses has taken me to all kinds of readings.  I would have never imagined reading Nobel Prize Lectures/material in medicine/physiology!

I came across works of Ronald Ross who was given Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1902, the second person to get the award:

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1902 was awarded to Ronald Ross “for his work on malaria, by which he has shown how it enters the organism and thereby has laid the foundation for successful research on this disease and methods of combating it.”

He was born in India (Almora) in 1857, at the time of First War of Independence.

I was reading Ross’s Nobel Prize Lecture which gives details on how he figured Malaria enters our body and then worked to cure the disease.

Malarial Fever, or, as it is often called, Paludism or Intermittent Fever, is perhaps the most important of all diseases which afflict humanity.
Broadly speaking it is spread over almost the whole of the tropics, and also extends into many countries which possess temperate climates – being found as
far north as Sweden and Canada. Although, happily, it is not a very fatal disease, yet it is generally so prevalent in the countries in which it exists that the
sum of the illness which it causes is immense. To take for instance the great country of India with its enormous population of nearly three hundred millions,
we find from the sanitary returns of the government that the deaths from fever alone are given at 4,919,591 for the single year 1900; and average roughly
about five million deaths yearly – a population nearly as large as that of Sweden and Norway. Although it is not possible to state that all this fever is malarial
fever, there are reasons for thinking that most of it must be such.


It should be noted that the death rate for malaria is here far below the truth; because, the disease being often very chronic, many of the worst cases are invalided to Europe; while in others death is often recorded as being due to inter current affections, such as pneumonia or dysentery, even though malaria may have been the original or principal cause of the fatal result.

Similar statistics will be found in most of the tropical countries of the world where statistics are kept at all. Even in such a temperate climate as Italy, the
annual number of cases amounts, according to Celli, to something like two millions, while the number of deaths may be fifteen thousand a year.

Phew! Just replace Malaria with Covid19.

He reviews history of Malaria and the research done till he came to the stage. Then he discusses his own journey starting in India:

It is, I understand, the principal duty of those who are called to the high honour of presenting the lecture of the Nobel Medical Prize to give in it an account of their own researches ; and I shall therefore begin my personal narrative at this point. * I had entered the medical service of the government of India in the year 1881; but, although many opportunities for studying the malarial problem had been given me, I was not specially attracted to it until the year 1889, when I first began to observe many facts at variance with the telluric hypothesis which had been instilled into me during my curriculum. I noted especially that the disease had a much more limited and localized prevalence than could be explained on any theory of aerial convection;

I found that outbreaks often appeared to occur among troops merely as the result of chill or fatigue; and that in many instances the symptoms accorded ill with the classical descriptions. These observations provoked in me much dissatisfaction with accepted theories; and gradually led me to the task of reviewing the whole subject by close analysis. Unfortunately at that time it was extremely difficult to obtain in India any of the more recent literature on the subject; and even the discovery of Laveran (1880) had scarcely penetrated there as yet – much less the work of Golgi, Danilewsky, Marchiafava and Celli. I was therefore forced to rely almost solely on my own observations and thoughts; and at first fell into the mistaken conception, parallel with that of Broussais, that the disease may be due to intestinal auto-intoxication; and I published some papers supporting this view.


In November 1894, Manson communicated to me hishypothesis, just formed by him, that the mosquito is the intermediary host of the malaria parasite, as he had proved it to be of Filaria nocturna. I was immediately and powerfully struck with this hypothesis, and at once determined to give it close experimental examination on my return to India.

I reached India in 1895 and found myself appointed medical officer of a regiment of native soldiers stationed at Secunderabad and suffering much from malarial fever. A survey was immediately made of the malarial parasites existing among these men and I found myself able to confirm for India, in almost every detail, the specialized work of the Italians and of Mannaberg.

Really interesting…



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