Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/326

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
316
POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

propriate species of mosquito belonged to the genus anopheles. There can not be the slightest doubt that the mosquito acts the part of transmitting agent as well as definitive host of the malarial parasite.

This is a piece of knowledge of the utmost importance to mankind, for we know that malarial disease in tropical countries—which, after all, in the future will be the most important parts of the world, seeing that they can produce more food than temperate countries and can therefore support a larger population—causes more deaths and more disposition to death by inducing cachectic states predisposing to other affections than all the other parasites affecting mankind put together. We know now in what way this parasite is acquired. Depend upon it, in time, in virtue of this knowledge, we will get enormous power over the disease and sooner or later we will be able to prevent the infection of man by the parasite. It is only a question of study and the application of the knowledge already acquired, only a question of money and perseverance and a little ingenuity, and these results will come. It may not be in ten years or twenty years, but sooner or later the energies of a considerable portion of scientific mankind now being expended in endeavoring to devise means for preventing the infection of men with the malarial germ by the mosquito will bear valuable fruit.

You can readily understand that it is of great importance to be able to recognize the special species of mosquito which convey malaria. The effective species as regards human malaria belong to the genus anopheles; species of the genus culex are effective in the case of sparrow malaria. Fortunately, these two genera are easily recognized even by the amateur zoölogist. If you find a mosquito clinging to the wall or other surface you can tell which genus it belongs to by its posture. If the body is stuck out nearly at right angles to the surface on which the insect is resting, it is an anopheles. If the body is almost parallel to the surface, it is a culex. There is another test which is easily applied if you have a pocket lens; in culex the two organs known as palpi are rudimentary and very short; whereas in anopheles those organs are almost as long as the proboscis. It should be remembered that the male mosquito is not a blood-sucker and therefore is not dangerous. It is the female anopheles which transmits the disease. The mosquito larvæ inhabit stagnant or slow-running water. If a mosquito larva be found with its head downwards, the body hanging at right angles to the surface of the water, it is a culex; if the body lies parallel to the surface of the water, it is an anopheles. There are other points of difference with which I need not now trouble you; those referred to suffice for diagnosis between the innocuous and the dangerous mosquitoes.

The facts regarding the malaria parasite which I have described are of great importance for many reasons. First, because they help