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What Historical Records Teach Us about the Discovery of Quinine

Louis H. MillerLaboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland;

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Jesus Rojas-JaimesFaculty of Health Sciences, Universidad Privada del Norte, Lima, Peru;

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Leanne M. LowLaboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland;

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Gilberto CorbelliniMuseum of History of Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Lazio, Italy

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ABSTRACT.

The origin of quinine from Peru remains a mystery because of the lack of primary data—in particular, those produced by the Jesuits working in Peru. The discovery of cinchona bark and its use in malaria treatment must have come from the Jesuits, who worked with the native Andeans, the Quichuan people, and learned how the bark of the cinchona tree could be used for chills. Unknown is whether the Andean people used it for fever that may have been the result of malaria. We explored the literature of the 1600s, 1700s, and later to trace the history of quinine that is available. All these secondary sources lack the primary data of the Jesuits in their work with native Andeans, nor is there information on how the discovery of its use for malaria-like fevers came about. One clue comes from the Jesuits who talked with the Andean people and learned about quinine. But was it used for fever? Why did the Jesuits test it against (tertian or quartan) fevers that could have been the result of malaria? The gap in our knowledge can only be resolved with the discovery of written documents by the Jesuits about quinine for malaria.

Author Notes

Address correspondence to Louis H. Miller, Twinbrook 3, Room 3E-32D, 12735 Twinbrook Pkwy., Rockville, MD 20852. E-mail: lmiller@niaid.nih.gov

Financial support: L. H. M. and L. M. L. were supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH.

Authors’ addresses: Louis H. Miller and Leanne M. Low, Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD, E-mails: louis.miller@nih.gov and leanne.low@nih.gov. Jesus Rojas-Jaimes, Faculty of Health Sciences, Universidad Privada del Norte, Lima, Peru, E-mail: jesus.rojas.jaimes@gmail.com. Gilberto Corbellini, Museum of History of Medicine, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Lazio, Italy, E-mail: gilberto.corbellini@gmail.com.

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