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Ronald Ross: Father of malaria


Nobel prize winner who conducted his research at Labac hospital

Special Correspondent
SILCHAR, Jan 22: In Labac Hospital located in Lakhipur subdivision of Cachar, set against the backdrop of lush green Borail Hill ranges, still hangs on its wall a photo framed clipping of a newspaper of late Victoria era that recorded the achievement of Ronald Ross which earned him the coveted Nobel Prize. He is recognized as the first person to find out the causes of malaria. He was associated with Labac Hospital as a doctor.
Born in 1857 in the Almorah city of Uttar Pradesh, now Purbanchal, Ronald Ross came to Northeast through his European connection and became a doctor in Labac Hospital. He conducted his research work on malaria in the quiet and tranquil environment of the medical care centre around tea bushes, now mainly meant for the treatment of estate staff members, tea tribe and general people of the area. He was awarded the coveted prize in 1902, an epoch making event in Barak Valley. The microscope which was used by Dr Ross for his investigative study is still preserved in Labac Hospital.
Malaria has been one of the deadliest diseases in Northeast till the 50’s of the last century. It took epidemic form and it was then rare to find a house which was not affected by its virus. In the hill, dales, valleys and plains, it became a silent killer. Though no record is available, countless died “unheard and unsung.” Malaria, like cancer, remained enigmatic as its cause was unknown and the treatment elusive.
Many things of the past remain unknown about this valley. It was Sir Ronald Ross who after years of exploratory study came out with the cause or causes of the disease which made possible its diagnosis and medicines. He could identify malaria in female encephalitis. Its stringent bite left the virus in human blood to cause the disease.
A citizen of Srikona near this town Biswajit Senapati recounted from the accounts given by one of his close relatives who worked as a doctor in Labac Hospital under Dewan group of tea estates, 20 km from here. According to him, the discovery of Ronald Ross was a milestone in the annal of medical science which helped subsequently in containing the menace of malaria not only in the Northeast but also across the country and beyond the Indian continent. Though there are still remote and isolated areas in Northeast where the spectre of malaria continues to haunt people, the Government of India and the States are on with their national malaria elimination programme.
Throwing light on the discovery of Ronald Ross, Senapati said it would be quite relevant to know all about the distinguished person and his achievements for the treatment of malaria. THE SENTINEL

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