The Mosquito: A Human Story of Our Deadliest Predator – Quantity 26, Quantity 10 – October 2020 – Journal of Rising Infectious Illnesses

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Timothy C. Winegard
Dutton, Penguin random house, New York, NY, USA, 2019
ISBN (hardcover): 9781524743413;; ISBN (eBook): 9781524743437;; ISBN (export): 9781524745608
Pages: 496;; Price: $ 28.00 (Hardback edition)

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Number. The mosquito: a human story of our deadliest predator

The mosquito: A human story of our deadliest predator (illustration) describes the connection between mosquito diseases and the progression of crucial historical events. Winegard combines his military history expertise with a comprehensive overview of the development of various mosquito diseases and delivers a compelling account of the relentless struggle of humans against the mosquito. Each chapter of this factual report describes the dynamic effects mosquitoes have on human survival at each major period in history.

This book describes how mosquitoes and their diseases shaped the aftermath of war, the spread of religion and the development of modern culture. Attacks by “General Anopheles”, who brought malaria to the Persians on their way through swampy terrain, ultimately led to a victory for the Greeks during the Greco-Persian Wars. Mosquitoes aided the rise and fall of the Roman Empire as the Pontine swamps served as a barrier to enemies and a direct source of disease. Christianity spread across Europe and had a reputation as a healing religion that valued the treatment of people affected by mosquito diseases. Christians were partially unable to conquer the Holy Land during the Crusades because mosquitoes infected with Plasmodium attacked inexperienced crusaders.

Winegard emphasizes the impact of mosquito disease on the development of the United States. European explorers provided the New World with a deadly dose of mosquito disease that contributed to the destruction of indigenous peoples and the subsequent colonization of America. Partially acquired and genetic immunity to vector-borne diseases fueled demand for enslaved people from Africa and kept the plantation economy productive. Widespread malaria delayed the Union’s victory during the American Civil War and contributed to Abraham Lincoln’s decision to focus on eradicating slavery. Without malaria, a swift Confederate defeat might not have resulted in the 1863 Declaration of Emancipation. While mosquitos were probably not the only reason for these historical results, they most likely made a significant contribution to the progression of events.

Winegard emphasizes that despite modern scientific advances, the mosquito’s legacy in shaping human history is not yet complete. The development of DDT and anti-malarial drugs such as atabrine and chloroquine during World War II, followed by the emergence of resistance to these treatments, demonstrate the need to continue research into mosquito diseases. This book also addresses the controversial topic of grouped, regularly spaced, short palindromic iterations, an innovative technology that could genetically modify mosquitoes to prevent human disease. While Winegard describes the potential benefits of this powerful tool, organisms and the environment can have unintended devastating consequences.

This book is a fascinating account of the value mosquitoes have in shaping human culture and existence over time. Individuals interested in the relationship between history and disease and future effects will learn a lot and enjoy the accumulation of knowledge and the exciting presentation of the narrative.

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The conclusions, findings, and opinions of the authors who contributed to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health, the public health service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or any of the institutions affiliated with the authors. The use of trade names is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups mentioned above.

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