Exhibition to mark World Malaria Day charts University’s long fight against the disease

Published: 23 April 2012

A new exhibition to mark World Malaria Day opened on Wednesday 25th April by the University Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman in the University of Glasgow’s library.

A new exhibition to mark World Malaria Day opened on Wednesday 25th April by the University Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman in the University of Glasgow’s library.


For over 150 years, University of Glasgow scientists have been contributing to the treatment of malaria.  The exhibition delves into the University’s collections to bring to light some of the stories of early pioneers, facts about the disease as well as profiling the work currently being undertaken by scientists at the university in the fight against one of the world’s biggest killers.

One of the university’s most famous alumni, David Livingstone, was one of the first to successfully treat malaria using quinine.  A keen observer of the environment and its effects on humans, Livingstone noted the association between mosquitoes and malaria more than 30 years before Ronald Ross conclusively established the link. 

Another alumni of the university, Malcolm Watson, is a lesser known pioneer.  In the wake of Ronald Ross’ 1897 identification of malaria parasites, Watson was working as a district surgeon in the town of Klang in Malay.  He studied the mosquitoes and the terrain in which they bred and found they liked different habitats.  He successfully proved that anti-mosquito measures could be adapted to each of the vector species.

Although the world has moved on in many ways from the time of Dr Livingstone, the menace of infectious diseases is by no means diminished.  Just under half of the world’s population is at risk from malaria and 9% of deaths, globally, of children under 5 are caused by malaria.

Scotland’s fight against these diseases continues at the University of Glasgow in the Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology, a leading institute studying parasites and aiming to control the diseases they cause.  The University of Glasgow now has one of the largest groupings of parasitologists in the world using genetic and molecular technology to study the biology of parasites, their lifecycle, how they interact with humans and what they can teach us about our own immune systems.

The University Chancellor Sir Kenneth Calman will open the display at noon on World Malaria Day. He said: “Fighting malaria is just one aspect of the University’s strong international tradition – it is an important aspect that has touched the lives of many.  Glasgow staff and alumni including parasitologists Sir Malcolm Watson a hundred years ago and Heather Ferguson today, have spend their careers overseas working to prevent tropical disease.  This World Malaria Day display in the University Library pays tribute to their contributions while highlighting that the battle is not yet over.”

University Librarian Helen Durndell comments “Now we have a display area, this will allow us to explore how to share the richness of the University Library’s collections with the public.”

Professor Andy Waters, Professor in the Institute of Infection Immunity and Inflammation of MVLS said: “Malaria causes over 1 million deaths globally every year and the parasites are a scourge that we need to fight. The Wellcome Trust Centre for Molecular Parasitology and colleagues at the University of Glasgow are working in collaboration with research groups across Europe, Africa, India, and Australia (collectively Evimalar) to profit from a network of knowledge. If we can work more collaboratively, I am confident that we will eventually succeed in at least controlling the spread of malaria and ideally eradicating it."




The University of Glasgow Malaria display runs from World Malaria Day, 25 April until 30 June and is open to the public, weekdays from 9am to 5pm.

Our online display is available here: http://bit.ly/JjkM5Q

The Scottish Encounter with Tropical Disease by Mike Barrett, Professor of Biochemical Parasitology is available at http://www.gla.ac.uk/media/media_177489_en.pdf

For more information contact Cara MacDowall in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 3535; 07875 203387 or email cara.macdowall@glasgow.ac.uk

First published: 23 April 2012

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