War and Disease: Biomedical Research on Malaria in the Twentieth Century

War and Disease: Biomedical Research on Malaria in the Twentieth Century

War and Disease: Biomedical Research on Malaria in the Twentieth Century

War and Disease: Biomedical Research on Malaria in the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

Malaria is one of the leading killers in the world today. Though drugs against malaria have a long history, attempts to develop novel therapeutics spanned the twentieth century and continue today. In this historical study, Leo B. Slater shows the roots and branches of an enormous drug development project during World War II. Fighting around the globe, American soldiers were at high risk for contracting malaria, yet quinine-a natural cure-became harder to acquire. A U.S. government-funded antimalarial program, initiated by the National Research Council, brought together diverse laboratories and specialists to provide the best drugs to the nation's military. This wartime research would deliver chloroquinine-long the drug of choice for prevention and treatment of malaria-and a host of other chemotherapeutic insights.

A massive undertaking, the antimalarial program was to biomedical research what the Manhattan Project was to the physical sciences.

A volume in the Critical Issues in Health and Medicine series, edited by Rima D. Apple and Janet Golden.

Excerpt

To understand the development of the military-industrial complex in the second half of the twentieth century, we look back at the Manhattan Project that built the first atomic bombs during World War II. For biomedicine in the twentieth century, the U.S. antimalarial program serves a similar role. It was a dynamic, evolving, and inventive program that spanned some seven years (1939–1946). It changed how biomedical research and development (R&D) would be funded and organized in the postwar period. World War II was a watershed for science and technology. The atomic bomb, jets and rockets, radar, and penicillin were just a few of the high-profile products of wartime R&D. Chloroquine—the drug of choice identified by the U.S. antimalarial program—was another. In debates about the purposes and nature of biomedical research, historians—and often the historical actors themselves—have cited this program’s significance while neglecting the details of its actual organization and accomplishments. As with many other projects, World War II was not an end, but a beginning. For the scientists, physicians, and administrators involved, the antimalarial program was a formative experience. Many of the program’s veterans went on to prominent careers and leadership positions. James A. Shannon, who made the National Institutes of Health into the foremost biomedical research organization in the world, was a leader in malaria research during World War II. Lowell Coggeshall, a Rockefeller malariologist before the war, became an innovator in medical education and science-based medicine as a postwar dean of the University of Chicago Medical School. The list goes on. For many . . .

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