An Unending War
The Australian Army’s struggle against malaria, 1885-2015
By Ian Howie-Willis
Published by Big Sky Publishing
RRP $34.99 in hardcover
The mention of malaria takes me back to my childhood when my mother talked about the malaria attacks which affected my father for a few years after returning from the Aitape-Wewak campaign in New Guinea.
She recalled people avoiding him on the tram thinking that he was drunk when he was actually having a malaria attack. And here we are 70 years on, and still the battle with malaria continues apace.
It is ironic that it was during the Aitape-Wewak campaign the Australians used the drug Aterbrin, with only satisfactory results.
Upon further investigation it transpired that the Japanese had been using the drug during their three year occupation of the Wewak region and research by the malariologists concluded that over this period, the parasites had evolved to acquire resistance.
So while the drug reduced the severity of the attacks, it was not able to suppress the malaria among the Australian troops. “Aterbrin helped the Allies win the war against the Japanese, but it could not inflict a total defeat upon the parasites”.
Not that malaria was confined to WW II. The Australian Army was also badly affected by malaria in Palestine in 1918 and in Vietnam in 1968. Malaria actually caused more casualties than did enemy action in Vietnam.
Continuing research into the disease is now undertaken at the Australian Army Malaria Institute at Gallipoli Barracks. The unending war against malaria continues to occupy the Army’s best medicos.