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Research, Malaria Elimination

The Exhibition "Mission Malaria: A Historical Overview" Looks Back at the Centuries-Long Fight against the Disease

A collaboration between the Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales and ISGlobal brings together more than 150 objects, the vast majority from the Quique Bassat Collection.

Photo: Jesús M. Izquierdo

The Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales (MNCN) in Madrid opened today the temporary exhibition "Misión Malaria: una mirada histórica". The exhibition brings together more than 150 objects from the collection of epidemiologist Quique Bassat, ISGlobal director general, which, together with pieces from the MNCN itself, the Royal Botanical Garden and the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Complutense University of Madrid, open a window on the unexpected relationships between the history of medicine, research, politics and public health. From the efforts to bring to Europe a 'miracle bark' from the Peruvian Andes that cured fever, to the discovery of the parasitic origin of malaria and the role of the mosquito as a vector, to the major public health campaigns to combat it, the exhibition also looks at the relevance of a disease that will kill 608,000 people in 2022 alone, mainly children in African countries.

"Malaria has been a major concern for health professionals from ancient times to the present day. It is crucial that we do not forget that malaria remains a public health emergency in the 21st century, especially in Africa. It is both preventable and curable, so each of the thousands of deaths that occur every year from malaria is truly unacceptable," Bassat stresses.

A journey through the history of malaria

Curated by Matiana González Silva, coordinator of ISGlobal's Malaria Elimination Initiative, and Alain Paul Mallard, the exhibition offers a journey through how malaria has been understood, prevented and cured over the centuries, and how this has changed as the great paradigms of medical history have shifted.


Asistentes a la presentación de la exposición Misión Malaria: una mirada histórica en el Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, en Madrid, el 11 de marzo de 2024.

Through old books, medicine bottles, hygiene propaganda, audio-visual elements and extensive iconography, “Misión Malaria” illustrates the strategic role of antimalarials in contexts as diverse as 19th-century European colonial expansion and the Second World War, scientific research on parasites and mosquitoes in Algeria and India, and public health campaigns in Italy, Spain and Panama. Taken together, the exhibition offers a glimpse of the path that has led to today's dramatic malaria situation in Africa, as well as the hope for innovative tools such as vaccines.  

"For years, the museum has been conducting research and workshops on malaria, so it seems very timely to have this exhibition that shows the centuries-long struggle against the disease from a social and cultural point of view," says Borja Milá, deputy director of exhibitions at the MNCN.

The inauguration of the exhibition, which can be visited until 22 September in the MNCN's Biodiversity Building, was attended by Rafael Zardoya, director of the MNCN, Matiana González, co-curator, Quique Bassat, director of ISGlobal, Carlos Juan Closa, vice president of Organisation and Institutional Relations of the CSIC, Javier Padilla, Secretary of State for Health, and Javier Gamo, director of the Global Health Medicines Unit of the biopharmaceutical company GSK Spain, the main sponsor of the exhibition.