Thursday, August 4, 2011

Using malaria as a weapon

Article about the history of DDT. For example:
The German army purposely triggered malaria epidemics, such as in Italy in 1944. Drainage pumps on the Roman marshes ordinarily pumped excess water out to sea, desiccating the land enough to make it malaria-free and thus habitable for thriving cities and towns. By stilling the pumps, the Germans could have flooded the region and effectively impeded the Allies' progress. But German malariologist Erich Martini had studied the habits of the local malaria vector, Anopheles labranchiae, in depth, and he knew that inundating the region with the Mediterranean's salty waters would allow A. labranchiae, which can thrive in brackish water, to flourish. And so rather than simply stopping the pumps, they reversed them, salinating some ninety-eight thousand acres. Then they confiscated local stockpiles of antimalarial drugs. As the German soldiers departed, they left behind "clever sketches," The New York Times reported in 1944, "of the plague of mosquitoes that would follow the flooding of the farmlands." More than 100,000 of the 245,000 locals sickened with malaria.