Publishers Weekly review of The Fever

Publishers Weekly, May 10, 2010

This fascinating, mordant pop-sci account tells us why malaria is one of the world’s greatest scourges, killing a million people every year and debilitating another 300 million, and why we have remained complacent about it. Journalist Shah (The Body Hunters: Testing New Drugs on the World’s Poorest Patients) shows how the Plasmodium parasite, entering through a mosquito’s bite and feasting on human red blood cells, has altered human history by destroying armies, undermining empires, and driving changes in our very genome. We’ve learned to fight back with antimalarial drugs and insecticides, but malaria’s adaptability and its buzzing vector, Shah notes, gives it the upper hand. Shah provides an intricate and lucid rundown of the biology and ecology of malaria, but her most original insights concern the ways in which human society accommodates and abets the parasite. (The impoverished denizens of Africa’s malaria belt, she observes, would sometimes rather use the pesticide-laced bed nets sent by Western aid groups to catch fish.) Shah’s is an absorbing account of human ingenuity and progress, and of their heartbreaking limitations. 16 pages of b&w illus. (July)

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