DDT and the malaria wars

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I'll be lecturing on hemoglobinopathies again this week, and I stumbled across this 2001 article by Malcolm Gladwell, profiling Fred Soper and the early 20th century effort to eradicate malaria.

This passage is from a longer section describing his work eliminating invasive Anopheles gambiae from Brazil in 1938:

Four thousand men were put at his disposal. He drew maps and divided up his troops. The men wore uniforms, and carried flags to mark where they were working, and they left detailed written records of their actions, to be reviewed later by supervisors. When Soper discovered twelve gambiae in a car leaving an infected area, he set up thirty de-insectization posts along the roads, spraying the interiors of cars and trucks; seven more posts on the rail lines; and defumigation posts at the ports and airports. In Soper's personal notes, now housed at the National Library of Medicine, in Bethesda, there is a cue card, on which is typed a quotation from a veteran of the Rockefeller Foundation's efforts, in the early twentieth century, to eradicate hookworm. "Experience proved that the best way to popularize a movement so foreign to the customs of the people . . . was to prosecute it as though it were the only thing in the universe left undone." It is not hard to imagine the card tacked above Soper's desk in Rio for inspiration: his goal was not merely to cripple the population of gambiae, since that would simply mean that they would return, to kill again. His goal was to eliminate gambiae from every inch of the region of Brazil that they had colonized--an area covering some eighteen thousand square miles. It was an impossible task. Soper did it in twenty-two months.

There were the great successes, and some hubris, and something of a tragic end. But it's a timely story, considering that WHO has stepped up its recommendations to use DDT to fight malaria in Africa. (via Instapundit)

And Soper was a Kansas boy.