tropical medicine

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Related to tropical medicine: Tropical diseases

tropical medicine,

study, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of certain diseases prevalent in the tropics. The warmth and humidity of the tropics and the often unsanitary conditions under which so many people in those areas live contribute to the development and dissemination of many infectious diseases and parasitic infestations. Much has been achieved in combating such typical tropical diseases as yellow feveryellow fever,
acute infectious disease endemic in tropical Africa and many areas of South and Central America. Yellow fever is caused by a virus transmitted by the bite of the female Aedes aegypti mosquito, which breeds in stagnant water near human habitations.
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, amebic dysenterydysentery
, inflammation of the intestine characterized by the frequent passage of feces, usually with blood and mucus. The two most common causes of dysentery are infection with a bacillus (see bacteria) of the Shigella group, and infestation by an ameba,
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, and filariasis (elephantiasiselephantiasis
, abnormal enlargement of any part of the body due to obstruction of the lymphatic channels in the area (see lymphatic system), usually affecting the arms, legs, or external genitals.
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). Better public health measures and therapeutic agents have assisted in the fight. The World Health Organization and philanthropic foundations have worked with local and international efforts to bring about medical advances. The deployment of American troops in malaria-infested regions spurred the search for more efficient synthetic antimalarial drugs. DDT, introduced in World War II to eradicate the malaria-carrying mosquito, has been found to have lingering toxic effects in the environment, and the persistent use of DDT in China for rice pests has produced DDT-resistant mosquitoes that now carry malaria. Resistance of the malarial parasite to chloroquine and Fansidar, the most widely used drugs for the protection of travelers in the tropics, has made both drugs virtually useless in most of Asia, Africa, and South America. A new drug, mefloquine, is effective in some areas but has many serious side effects. Current research is directed at making a vaccine against malaria. There have also been advances against hookworm, leprosy, and other tropical maladies. The emergence in central Africa of the Ebola virusEbola virus
, a virus of the genus Ebolavirus, which belongs to a family (Filoviridae) of RNA viruses that cause hemorrhagic fevers. The viruses, named for the region in Congo (Kinshasa) where the first species was first identified in 1976, emerged from the rain
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, which exists in an as yet unknown host and is fatal to 50%–90% of those infected, has been especially challenging to medical personnel in underequipped hospitals where outbreaks have occurred.

Tropical Medicine


a branch of medicine concerned with human health in tropical and subtropical regions. It deals with the etiology, diagnosis, therapy, epidemiology, and prevention of tropical diseases, as well as with the prevention of their spread in temperate countries. Other concerns of tropical medicine are adaptation, acclimatization, the clinical course of diseases prevalent in the tropics, and the influence of natural and social factors on the health and susceptibility of inhabitants of tropical regions and of visitors to these regions.

The rapid development and increasing importance of tropical medicine in the second half of the 20th century result from the emergence of many recently independent developing countries in tropical regions and the creation of effective means of preventing and treating many tropical diseases. Modern tropical medicine is no longer a clinical specialty concerned with exotic diseases but a complex branch of medicine that places a strong emphasis on prevention.

The scientific, organizational, and methodological center for tropical medicine in the USSR is the E. I. Martsinovskii Institute of Medical Parasitology and Tropical Medicine in Moscow. Tropical medicine is also studied in republic-level institutes of tropical medicine, in subdepartments of parasitology at institutes for advanced training in medicine, in other scientific establishments in the USSR, and in similar organizations abroad, as well as in the World Health Organization and various other international organizations.


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