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Bad air, amulets and mosquitoes: 2,000 years of changing perspectives on malaria

Ernst Hempelmann1 and Kristine Krafts2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Pharmacology, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa and Dorfhalde 14, D-88662, Überlingen, Germany

2 Department of Oral Pathology, University of Minnesota School of Dentistry, 515 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA

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Malaria Journal 2013, 12:232  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-12-232

Published: 9 July 2013


For many centuries, scientists have debated the cause and best treatment of the disease now known as malaria. Two theories regarding malaria transmission – that of “bad air” and that of insect vectors – have been widely accepted at different times throughout history. Treatments and cures have varied accordingly over time. This paper traces the evolution of scientific consensus on malaria aetiology, transmission, and treatment from ancient times to the present day.