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Press release: Malaria Conference Will Look to Israel’s Past for Modern Solutions

December 8, 2013 - 15:23 -- Bart G.J. Knols
Malaria Conference Will Look to Israel’s Past for Modern Solutions
Techniques that worked decades ago could help stop the annual 660,000 malaria deaths
Experts, field workers and historians will gather Dec. 8-12 in Jerusalem
Forgotten anti-malaria pioneer and his innovations to be recognized
Jerusalem, Dec. 4, 2013 - Malaria was eradicated in Israel decades ago, but worldwide the disease continues to kill. In 2010, mosquito-borne parasite infected over 250 million people worldwide and killed an estimated 660,000, mostly African children.
Current anti-malaria efforts are to a great extent focused on advanced science and vaccine development. But malaria experts and field workers gathering next week in Jerusalem believe a parallel approach -- based on methods that worked in Israel and elsewhere many years ago -- may hold the key to eliminating malaria in parts of Africa today. An international conference at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will propose a kind of “back to the future” approach, as participants propose efforts based on past experience combined with modern knowledge and technology.
The Dec. 8-12 conference, REVISITING MALARIA: MOVING FROM CONTROL TO SUSTAINABLE ELIMINATION is presented by the Sanford F. Kuvin Center For the Study of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Braun School of Public Health of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.
Participants in conference workshops aim to produce work plans for malaria elimination in specific geographic and ecological situations. Groups of field workers and scientists dealing with particular aspects of malaria control and eradication will be asked to produce detailed proposals, appropriate to the ecology, population, and medical and social services available, that will ultimately lead not only to malaria control, but to its ultimate eradication.
Paying Homage to a Forgotten Anti-Malaria Pioneer
Participants will also recognize the contributions of Dr. Israel J. Kligler, who arrived in Mandatory Palestine armed with a doctorate in microbiology in 1920 when malaria was called “the most important disease in Palestine.” Kligler led the successful effort to eliminate malaria through techniques that included draining marshes and spraying larva-infested areas.
Kligler became one of the first Professors of the Hebrew University, where he directed the Department of Hygiene and Bacteriology. The precursor of today’s World Health Organization called Kligler and his colleagues "benefactors not only to the Palestinian population but to the world as a whole.” 
Yet for many years Kligler and his accomplishments have been overlooked and forgotten, some claim because of personality conflicts that led other public health pioneers to be honored while Kligler was passed over. 
While Kligler helped eradicate malaria in Israel, worldwide the disease continues to kill. According to conference organizers, Kligler’s personal contribution is paralleled by the scientific lessons he left behind for those committed to eradicate malaria. In addition to paying tribute to him, conference participants will explore whether a Kligler-based approach can work in parts of Africa today.
For more information: 
Dov Smith
Hebrew University Foreign Press Liaison


William Jobin's picture
Submitted by William Jobin on

Dear Colleagues,

Our days in Jerusalem to discuss malaria elimination were fruitful and joyful, capped off by the winter storm of the century to make it even more memorable. And I will cherish the joke we heard from our colleague Dr. Eli Schwartz, Director of the Center for Geographic Medicine and Tropical Disease in Israel - told here with his permission. The story goes like this:

It seems Prime Minister Netanyahu was praying to his Creator, and asked, "Oh Lord, will we ever have peace in the Holy Land?"

The reply came, "Not in your lifetime."

After a pause, the Prime Minister then asked, "When will we eradicate malaria?"

The reply came, "Not in my lifetime."

- Bill Jobin, thinking about suppressing malaria right now, using our current tools

William Jobin Director of Blue Nile Associates

Jeff Juel's picture
Submitted by Jeff Juel on

Bill - Maybe I need to recheck my sources, but I always thought that Dr. Kligler successfully eradicated malaria from Palestine within his lifetime; William Gorgas eradicated malaria from Havana and the Canal Zone within his lifetime; and Mussolini (and others) temporarily/nearly eradicated malaria from Italy in his lifetime.

Dams and intelligent water management played a key role in the eradication of malaria in the Tennessee Valley under the work of Arthur E. Morgan and the TVA. Morgan died in 1975 at the ripe old age of 97. Malaria was nearly eradicated in the Tennessee Valley by 1950. He eradicated malaria from a very large area well within his lifetime.

The history of malaria in Italy is particularly interesting. At the close of WWII, the retreating Germans sabotaged the flood control and drainage infrastructure of the Italian lowlands. This caused a massive increase in the incidence of malaria, proving that drainage infrastructure is central to successful eradication efforts.

The above examples of the successful regional eradication of malaria were all began more than 75 years ago. Today we have computers, high-speed communication, GIS and the records from past eradication work. The world now has more hands, more minds, better and more equipment, more capital, and new ideas.

I believe that eradication is possible in many (most? all?) locations, IF the political will exists and IF the historical repeatedly-proven approach (including a good dose of larval source management) is implemented.

Eradication can be done in my lifetime - God willing.

Jeff Juel, PE

William Jobin's picture
Submitted by William Jobin on

Thank you for catching the word, Jeff.

At our recent conference in Jerusalem we settled on the word elimination, to refer to regional or limited geographical absence of the parasite. So by our terminology, you cited many examples of regional elimination. This absence has been made permanent by the economic progress of these areas, so malaria is no longer a concern there. But it still exists elsewhere, especially in Africa.

It might be a fine point, but when people propose eradication of malaria, starting with Africa, I think of the Congo River Basin, Somalia, the Central African Republic and other places where I would not like to have the job - even for regional elimination - definitely not if I had to eventually go for global eradication.

Small pox was eradicated - thus we do not have to even monitor it any more. Malaria was eliminated from the US and Europe. But eradicating malaria from the whole wide world is not going to happen for a long while.

I would love to be proven wrong.


William Jobin Director of Blue Nile Associates

William Jobin's picture
Submitted by William Jobin on

It was amazing and comforting - in the context of a world bent on destruction of peoples of opposite views - to spend our recent days in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University in peacefully discussing a better way to attack malaria in Africa. A way which restores species elimination to our toolbox.

Our group, also sponsored by the Dutch Malaria Institute, included non-believers as well as people of several religious persuasions. It was remarkable to see the courtesy and tolerance exhibited by all our colleagues, especially the spiritual children of the patriarch Abraham; the Muslims, Jews, and Christians. We even prayed together!

Maybe it helped our cosmopolitan and inter-faith group to have a creative focus for our energies, so we did not dwell on past hurts, but looked instead to future triumphs. Perhaps the current Peace Conference headed by John Kerry could learn a little from our humble Malaria Conference.

As our late and beloved Nelson Mandela said in 1995, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”


William Jobin Director of Blue Nile Associates

Jeff Juel's picture
Submitted by Jeff Juel on

Bill - I always appreciate your thought-provoking intelligent postings.

I generally subscribe to the notion that there is good and bad in everything. Maybe there would be a down-side to global eradication of Malaria. (?!!!!)

There are sparsely populated wild and beautiful areas in Africa that mankind should leave undisturbed. Maybe malaria is just the thing to keep mankind from encroaching, poaching the wildlife, and despoiling the wilderness. I've read that Vivax malaria in the swamps surrounding Ancient Rome helped protect Rome from invading armies and sieges. I can imagine a similar mechanism effectively protecting wilderness areas in Africa - assuming that the inhabited/developed areas can be made malaria-free.

If we engineer intelligent flood control, diking and drainage infrastructure, along with clean water and sanitation for the populated areas of Africa, economic progress will be inevitable and malaria will be regionally eliminated permanently. It will not be global eradication, but that's good enough for me.

It is likely that some of the currently populated malarious areas in Africa are simply too challenging for regional elimination. One component of human evolution is migration. If ya can't beat 'em, move!

Just some thoughts.

Jeff Juel, PE