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Book and Media Reviews
November 22/29, 2006

Malaria History

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA.

JAMA. 2006;296(20):2490-2495. doi:10.1001/jama.296.20.2493

The title of Frank Snowden's book invokes an earlier, more optimistic era, when infectious diseases seemed to have receded from urgent medical concern. We now know that the complacency was never appropriate for developing countries, and the emergence of new infectious diseases, the specter of influenza, and drug resistance have punctured the coziness, even in the richest countries.

Despite these contemporary concerns, Snowden's title is accurate. His subtle and sober account of the campaigns against malaria in Italy is never triumphalist, but it tells a success story. In 1900, malaria was a serious disease in many parts of Italy, blocking economic development and causing significant morbidity and mortality. In 1962, it had disappeared, and Italy shares with other European countries only the occasional case of travelers' malaria.