August 20th marks World Mosquito Day, which commemorates a critical discovery made by Sir Ronald Ross in 1897. This discovery changed the course of malaria research. In honor of the holiday, we’re taking a closer look at the work and life of Sir Ronald Ross.
Ross was born in India in 1857, and he was sent to England at the age of eight to go to school. In 1875, he began studying medicine in London, and then entered the Indian Medical Service in 1881.
His Early Work
In 1892, he began studying malaria. Though he originally doubted that the malaria parasite existed, he changed his mind when Patrick Manson, another mosquito science pioneer, demonstrated that malaria parasites lived in the bloodstream.
Ross returned to India in 1895 and set out to prove the hypothesis that mosquitoes were connected with the spread of malaria. This hypothesis was originally developed by Manson and military doctor Alphonse Laveran. His research was almost derailed when he was transferred to a different location in India that was free of malaria, but Manson managed to convince the Indian government to allow him a special post to investigate malaria.
After two and a half years of failure, on August 20th, 1897, Ross made his groundbreaking discovery. He was dissecting the stomach tissue of an anopheline mosquito that had fed on a malaria patient when he found the malaria parasite. This allowed him to prove that the Anopheles mosquito transmits malaria parasites in humans.
His Later Work
After this initial discovery, Ross continued to research malaria in India, this time focusing on malaria in birds. In 1898, he demonstrated that mosquitoes could serve as intermediate hosts for bird malaria. Shortly after, in 1899, he resigned from the Indian Medical Service and returned to England to lecture, teach, and work on malaria prevention in West Africa, Egypt, Panama, Greece, and Mauritius.
He soon began receiving recognition for his contributions to science and medicine. In 1901, Ross became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and a Fellow of the Royal Society. In 1902, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on malaria.
He continued to consult on tropical diseases during the First World War, and he wrote extensively on malaria. In 1926, the Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases was opened in honor of his work. The institute was dedicated to studying the nature, treatment, spread, and prevention of tropical diseases. He served as the Director in Chief of the institute until he died in 1932.
Fast forward to modern day, and it’s astonishing to think about how far we’ve come in our understanding of mosquito-borne diseases, treatment, and prevention. While these developments are remarkable, none of them could have been possible without Sir Ronald Ross’ landmark discovery in 1897. As such, we honor his legacy on the 20th of August each year.
We at DC Mosquito Squad are especially grateful for this contribution, and we do our part in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases by keeping your backyard free of pests.