Fever reviewed

Fever. How malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years. Sonia Shah. Allen & Unwin. Australia 2010. ISBN 978 1 74237 048 4

If you want to read a book on malaria critically, there can’t be a better way than at bedtime sweating under the protection of a mosquito net. I was overseas, germ hunting again and took Sonia Shah’s latest offering to while away the hours on the outward journey. The title is provocative: Fever – how malaria has ruled humankind for 500,000 years. It reflects Shah’s preoccupation with the infection since her childhood in India. Now an investigative journalist based in the USA, she has committed considerable effort researching the topic of this book. This is clear from the careful manner in which she marshals the facts, assembling a support cast of expert witnesses. She lists a group of malariologists and other specialists, including a number of well known names from tropical medicine who helped her check the accuracy of her material.

But don’t expect a dry, dispassionate account of the malaria parasite’s world. Sonia Shah covers her subject with a campaigning edge that brings life to familiar material. The view from inside the mosquito net became increasingly focussed as the working week sped by, tearing through a short list of tropical infections. It was therefore a fitting end to the week when we successfully accomplished our clinical lab malaria task and finished Fever while waiting for the plane to take off.

In spite of all the professional reading I’ve done on malaria recently (Manson’s Tropical Diseases and The Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine), there are new angles here on old themes, neat connections between topics and good ideas for public health improvements. It is an inspiring read which appears to have done well since its initial publication earlier this year. Ominously, Shah questions the current preoccupation with bednets. Small comfort for a reader whose main protection was a thin green mesh.

Contents

  1. Malaria at our doorstep
  2. Birth of a killer
  3. Swept in malaria’s current
  4. Malarial ecologies
  5. Pharmacological failure
  6. The karma of malaria
  7. Scientific solutions
  8. The disappeared – how malaria vanished from the West
  9. The spray gun war
  10. The secret in the mosquito


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