A new book by Sonia Shah covers the history of malaria and the way it affects people today around the world: The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years.
I haven't got a copy yet, so I don't know why she picked 500,000 years. I'd have thought that was a fairly unlikely moment to start the story given what we know about the Neu5Gc story.
The NY Times reviewed the book today. This was scary:
Meanwhile, in many undeveloped parts of the world, the disease is just one of those things. Despite the urgency of the newest Gates-Clinton-Bono antimalarial cabal, people often consider it a minor malady, like a cold, and shrug at the West’s obsession with taming it. According to one estimate, only 20 percent of those with malaria actually seek curative treatment, and then only a third of those take the drugs as prescribed. Life-saving insecticide-treated mosquito nets, donated by the West with much fanfare, are sometimes repurposed to catch fish.
UPDATE (2010-07-27): A reader writes:
It's not clear in your post what you're referring to when you say "This was scary:" - the passage or the irresponsible journalism?
I've not read the malaria book either but I was annoyed to see the passage you pasted, including the line: donted nets "...are sometimes repurposed to catch fish." They are occasionally used as wedding gowns too (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4393375.stm) and probably all kinds of other things but these uses might represent maybe .01% of all nets distributed? I can just hear one of my friends saying, "Oh I'm not going to give money for bednets, those Africans just using them for fishing!"
Why not discuss the number of countries that had over 50% reduction in malaria cases over the last few years? Seems like a wasted opportunity.