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Opinion: Paul de Kruif, American science writer on malaria: a case study

January 27, 2011 - 21:10 -- Bart G.J. Knols
Tags: 
Author(s): 
Jan Peter Verhave
Reference: 
MWJ 2011, 2, 1
Article type: 
Opinion
Abstract: 


This article focuses on the life of American science writer and microbiologist Paul de Kruif, and his dealing with various malaria topics. A case is made for the role of science journalists in driving the application of newly generated knowledge in the real world of malaria control.

 

 

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Comments

Submitted by Guest (not verified) on
Greetings, The role of the science journalist in guiding our thinking about science, and in this case malaria, is clearly highlighted in this case study of Paul de Kruif. Those of us who are specialists and so deeply immersed in our field, need this kind of journalist to help us see the bigger issues. Likewise, I have recently come to see the value of historians who examine certain diseases and identify the important aspects. For instance Frank Snowden, the Yale historian, has recently published a seminal book on the history of malaria control in Italy (Snowden F. 2006 "The conquest of malaria" Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, USA). In Snowden's book he takes the experience in Italy, and offers us guidelines for malaria control in Africa. The depth of his understanding of malaria is amazing, and his advise for us is something that everyone in WHO Geneva and the US Presidential Malaria Initiative should see. Furthermore, last week I attended a lecture by Prof James Webb of Colby College about his work on "The history of malaria in Africa" and realized the same value of an outsider's look at our field. I think every school of public health which offers courses on malaria should start with these historians, to get proper perspective on this struggle against our ancient foe (Webb JL Jr "The long shadow of malaria intervention in Africa" in Lancet 2009, Dec 5:374(9705):1883-4 ). To my chagrin, Webb the historian pointed out a dangerous aspect of successful malaria control in Africa to which we succumbed in the Blue Nile Health Project in Sudan when after 15 years of success in the Gezira Irrigated area of central Sudan, we experienced a devastating resurgence of malaria after unusually heavy rains (page 19 figure 14 in Jobin 2010 "A realistic strategy for fighting malaria in Africa" Blue Nile Publishers, Colorado USA ). We were not prepared for this, and the result was many deaths among children and young people without immunity. We knew of this risk, but Webb pointed out the ways we could have been prepared to deal with the resurgence. So we better study history and search for journalists and historians who can intelligently criticize our efforts. Thus the case study of Paul de Kruif is a very fit subject for Malaria World Journal. Thank you for the article editors, and also thanks to Prof Verhave. William Jobin

William Jobin's picture
Submitted by William Jobin on
Letter to the Editor Malaria World Journal Dear Editor, The role of the science journalist in guiding our thinking about science, and in this case malaria, is clearly highlighted in this case study of Paul de Kruif. Those of us who are specialists and so deeply immersed in our field, need this kind of journalist to help us see the bigger issues. Likewise, I have recently come to see the value of historians who examine certain diseases and identify the important aspects. For instance Frank Snowden, the Yale historian, has recently published a seminal book on the history of malaria control in Italy (Snowden F. 2006 "The conquest of malaria" Yale University Press, New Haven, CT, USA). In Snowden's book he takes the experience in Italy, and offers us guidelines for malaria control in Africa. The depth of his understanding of malaria is amazing, and his advise for us is something that everyone in WHO Geneva and the US Presidential Malaria Initiative should see. Furthermore, last week I attended a lecture by Prof James Webb of Colby College about his work on "The history of malaria in Africa" and realized the same value of an outsider's look at our field. I think every school of public health which offers courses on malaria should start with these historians, to get proper perspective on this struggle against our ancient foe (Webb JL Jr "The long shadow of malaria intervention in Africa" in Lancet 2009, Dec 5:374(9705):1883-4 ). To my chagrin, Webb the historian pointed out a dangerous aspect of successful malaria control in Africa to which we succumbed in the Blue Nile Health Project in Sudan when after 15 years of success in the Gezira Irrigated area of central Sudan, we experienced a devastating resurgence of malaria after unusually heavy rains (page 19 figure 14 in Jobin 2010 "A realistic strategy for fighting malaria in Africa" Blue Nile Publishers, Colorado USA ). We were not prepared for this, and the result was many deaths among children and young people without immunity. We knew of this risk, but Webb pointed out the ways we could have been prepared to deal with the resurgence. So we better study history and search for journalists and historians who can intelligently criticize our efforts. Thus the case study of Paul de Kruif is a very fit subject for Malaria World Journal. Thank you for the article editors, and also thanks to Prof Verhave. William Jobin

William Jobin Director of Blue Nile Associates