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June 17 , 2010

Bugs In Armor

A Tale of Malaria and Soldiering


From military expeditions in antiquity to peacekeeping missions in the twentieth century, malaria has been the single most important medical problem confronting nonimmune troops in malarious regions. Its devastating effects were clearly visible during both world wars. During the Macedonian campaign in World War I, an exasperated French general could not counterattack as he desperately reported, "Regret that my army is in hospital with malaria." Malaria also popped up in Korea, Vietnam and during Operation Restore Hope in Somalia. Often malaria causes more casualties than enemy action. A 1772 Dutch force sent to quell rioting slaves in Surinam lost three-quarters of its troops to malaria, and only a handful to the rebels.

Bugs in Armor takes the reader on a historical journey of military expeditions and their encounters with a relentless bug—the malaria parasite. It is also a story of how this confrontation fuelled research that gave the world a better understanding of the nature of malaria, its treatment and prevention.

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