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Historical Development of Medical Parasitology in China

Edited by: Dr Sen-Hai Yu, Prof. Xiao-Nong Zhou

China was one of the countries with the highest burden of parasitic infections in the world at early last century, which are closely related to poverty. Tracing back to the history of parasitic infections in China, diseases due to worms infection were already recorded in the oldest medical book entitled “Huang Di Nei Jing”, compiled in the Qin-Han dynasties, over 2200 years ago. As described in the literatures or books in the last several centuries, the control efforts on the diseases and relevant investigations have accumulated rich information or experiences in the country. For instance, old texts did mention various aspects of parasites, such as morphology, pathogenesis and treatment, etc. The discovery of artemisinin, a newly developed antimalarial drug, was indeed inspired by an ancient herbal medicine.

Modern medical parasitology began during 1886-1871 in China when Sir Patrick Manson, a medical doctor from UK, first came to investigate the prevalence of parasitic diseases in countryside of Taiwan and Fujian. While Chinese scientists began to work in the field of medical parasitology since 1921, the first institution "Institute of Tropical Diseases" was founded by Dr. S.L. HUNG in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province in August, 1928. A national laboratory was then set up in the Central Health Facility Laboratory under the Health Department in 1932. Medical parasitology was first included in the curriculum of 6 years programme of university in 1935. Since 1950, the government of the People’s Republic of China paid great attention to the control of the 5 most detrimental parasitic diseases, e.g. schistosomiasis, malaria, visceral leishmaniasis, lymphatic filariasis and ancylostomiasis. After decades of efforts, the prevalence of these infections has decreased significantly, including the elimination of lymphatic filariasis in 2007.

In this special issue, supported by China UK Global Health Support Programme (grant no. GHSP-CS-OP1), we present a series of papers that address the historical development of Chinese medical parasitology along with the experience and lessons leant from the national control programmes of various parasitic diseases. It is also expected that these experiences could be translated into the developing world, particularly on the strategies to combat both parasitic diseases and poverty, which has caused considerable attention from the international community.

  1. Chemotherapy for schistosomiasis has been around for 100 years. During the past century, great efforts have been made to develop new antischistosomal drugs from antimonials to nonantimonials, and some of these...

    Authors: Shu-Hua Xiao, Jun Sun and Ming-Gang Chen
    Citation: Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2018 7:9
  2. After the existence of phlebotomine sand flies was first reported in China in 1910, the distribution of different species and their role in the transmission of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) have been extensively...

    Authors: Li-Ren Guan, Zheng-Bin Zhou, Chang-Fa Jin, Qing Fu and Jun-Jie Chai
    Citation: Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2016 5:15
  3. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) (kala-azar) was most seriously prevalent in the plain regions of eight provinces/municipalities in the eastern and central parts of China. In the early 1950s, the number of counties/ci...

    Authors: Li-Ren Guan and Zhong-Xing Wu
    Citation: Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2014 3:10
  4. Echinococcosis is a major parasitic zoonosis of public health importance in western China. In 2004, the Chinese Ministry of Health estimated that 380,000 people had the disease in the region. The Qinghai-Tibet...

    Authors: Qian Wang, Yan Huang, Liang Huang, Wenjie Yu, Wei He, Bo Zhong, Wei Li, Xiangman Zeng, Dominique A Vuitton, Patrick Giraudoux, Philip S Craig and Weiping Wu
    Citation: Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2014 3:3
  5. China used to be one of the most heavily endemic countries for lymphatic filariasis (LF) in the world. There were 864 endemic counties/cities in 16 provinces/autonomous regions/municipalities (P/A/M) with a to...

    Authors: Sun De-jian, Deng Xu-li and Duan Ji-hui
    Citation: Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2013 2:30
  6. Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) was discovered in the farms of the Karamay suburb, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the 1990s. Between 1992 and 1994, a house-to-house survey revealed a prevalence of 1.0-1.6% i...

    Authors: Li-Ren Guan, Yuan-Qing Yang, Jing-Qi Qu, Hao-Yuan Ren and Jun-Jie Chai
    Citation: Infectious Diseases of Poverty 2013 2:20