Wartime research on malaria chemotherapy.Parassitologia 2000; 42(1-2):33-45P
Malaria was a major problem for the opposing forces in World War II. During the first year of operations in the South West Pacific the casualties caused by this disease greatly exceeded the numbers of battle casualties. In response to this situation comprehensive research and development programs to discover new antimalarial drugs were undertaken in the United States and Britain. In both countries compounds synthesised by co-operating chemical laboratories were screened against bird malaria and those with high activity and low toxicity were tested in man. The wartime program in America was funded by the Office of Scientific Research and Development and co-ordinated through a specially designated body under the Committee on Medical Research of the National Research Council. It was an enormous undertaking involving a massive co-operative effort between pharmacologists, chemists, and clinical research scientists from American universities, the US Public Health Service, and the laboratories of commercial pharmaceutical companies. The British program, on a much smaller scale, was based on a co-operative arrangement between the research laboratories of Imperial Chemical Industries at Manchester, the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and the British Medical Research Council. The wartime programs in both countries identified a number of promising leads but lacked the resources to permit their rapid clinical evaluation against field strains of human malaria. This deficiency was overcome by experiments conducted by the Land Headquarters Medical Research Unit of the Australian Army in Cairns, Queensland with the use of army volunteers. Large scale clinical trials of the most promising compounds which emerged from the American and British programs were carried out in Australia. This co-operative endeavour among allied scientists resulted in a range of new drugs which have had an enduring influence on malaria chemotherapy.