Unfortunately, we stopped caring, and some horrific consequences resulted:
The global eradication effort did achieve some notable successes. Malaria was virtually wiped out in much of the Caribbean and South Pacific, from the Balkans, from Taiwan. In Sri Lanka, there were 2.8 million cases of malaria in 1946, and a total of 17 in 1963. In India, malaria deaths plummeted from 800,000 a year to scarcely any.
As much as I'd hate to put down Rachel Carson, she really did cause a large uproar against DDT. Perhaps a bit too large of one, which kept DDT from being used in places where it would have been helpful. But here comes the worst part of it:
In several places where malaria had been on the brink of extinction, including both Sri Lanka and India, the disease came roaring back. And in much of sub-Saharan Africa, malaria eradication never really got started. The WHO program largely bypassed the continent, and smaller scale efforts made little headway.
Soon after the program collapsed, mosquito control lost access to its crucial tool, DDT. The problem was overuse—not by malaria fighters but by farmers, especially cotton growers, trying to protect their crops. The spray was so cheap that many times the necessary doses were sometimes applied. The insecticide accumulated in the soil and tainted watercourses. Though nontoxic to humans, DDT harmed peregrine falcons, sea lions, and salmon. In 1962 Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, documenting this abuse and painting so damning a picture that the chemical was eventually outlawed by most of the world for agricultural use. Exceptions were made for malaria control, but DDT became nearly impossible to procure. "The ban on DDT," says Gwadz of the National Institutes of Health, "may have killed 20 million children."
Then came the biggest crisis of all: widespread drug resistance. Malaria parasites reproduce so quickly that they evolve on fast-forward, constantly spinning out new mutations. Some mutations protected the parasites from chloroquine. The trait was swiftly passed to the next generation of parasites, and with each new exposure to chloroquine the drug-resistant parasites multiplied. Soon they were unleashing large-scale malaria epidemics for which treatment could be exceedingly difficult. By the 1990s, malaria afflicted a greater number of people, and was harder to cure, than ever.Oh, would you look at that? In just a few decades, our most powerful medicines were rendered useless. Chloroquine was considered one of the greatest achievements in the fight against malaria. It was a synthetic, highly effective, and cheap cure for malaria. Now it's nothing! Now. evolution is a powerful force which should be given credit to, not denied. And don't give me that "microevolution" bull. There's another characteristic of malaria which paints it's evolution on a very macro level indeed:
The disease has been with humans since before we were human. Our hominin ancestors almost certainly suffered from malaria. The parasite and the mosquito are both ancient creatures—the dinosaurs might have had malaria—and this longevity has allowed the disease ample time to exploit the vulnerabilities of an immune system. And not just ours. Mice, birds, porcupines, lemurs, monkeys, and apes catch their own forms of malaria. Bats and snakes and flying squirrels have malaria.Since dinosaurs, mice, birds, porcupines, lemurs, monkeys, apes, bats, snakes, flying squirrels and humans all have similar immune systems, therefore they're all exploitable by malaria. Why couldn't an intelligent designer spare some of these species by giving them a different immune system? Was he/she/it just too lazy to do so? Well, thanks a lot!
(Hooray for Panda's Thumb)