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For more than one thousand years, there was no cure for malaria. In 1623, after ten cardinals and hundreds of their attendants died in Rome while electing Urban VII the new pope, he announced that a cure must be found. He encouraged Jesuit priests establishing new missions in Asia and in South America to learn everything they could about how the local people treated the disease, and in 1631, an apothecarist in Peru named Agostino Salumbrino dispatched a new miracle to Rome. The cure was quinine, an alkaloid made from the bitter red bark of the cinchona tree.
From the quest of the Englishmen who smuggled cinchona seeds out of South America to the way in which quinine opened the door to Western imperial adventure in Asia, Africa, and beyond, and to malaria's effects even today, award-winning author Fiammetta Rocco deftly chronicles the story of this historically ravenous disease.
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