Wellcome Image of the Week: Mosquito net veil
This week we marked World Mosquito Day with a blog post about some of the work that Wellcome Trust is funding in the area of insecticide resistance in mosquitoes. Mosquito nets are another popular method used to reduce the risk of malaria and this week’s image depicts a European man wearing a mosquito net as a veil.
The image was created as a postcard from the early 1900s and can be found in the Wellcome Library. The veil contains a hole for the man’s pipe to fit through. This is probably not just because of his smoking addiction, but to ward off mosquitoes with the smoke.
It is likely that one function of this veil was to reduce the risk of malaria. We now think of malaria as a disease confined to tropical or southern countries, but for thousands of years it was also prominent in Europe – up until the 1960s in southern Europe. Malaria was also present in England from the 16th century, especially around fens and marshy areas where the mosquitos would have thrived. The recession of malaria from Europe in the mid 19th century is likely to be because improvements in living conditions reduced contact between humans and mosquitoes, and the widespread availability of quinine (a chemical found in the Chinchona tree that has anti-malarial effects).
Malaria occurs from blood infection by Plasmodium parasites carried by female Anopheles mosquitos, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that people realised that mosquitoes were the cause. The Wellcome Trust funds a lot of work on malaria both in the UK (with the Plasmodium genome being sequenced at the Sanger institute, and globally in areas where malaria is endemic). Malaria is an important global health issue and a lot of research is being undertaken to find vaccines and better treatments.