Season 1, CHATROOM 8

 How Ronald Ross discovered and stopped cholera in Bangalore

Nobel Prize winner Sir Ronald Ross discovered the origins of a cholera outbreak and stopped it in Bangalore in 1895. At first he was stumped. The disease showed up in one place and then jumped to the other end of town. And how did he get his hands on a microscope when there was only one in all of South India? Later, he went on a trip to Conoor where he met a tribal person who tells him about the speckled mosquito causing disease. He went on to prove this — and in 1902, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his efforts. Join Sanjeev Jain, a professor at NIMHANS, for a “whodunnit” on Ross’ disease-hunting trail.

Sanjeev says that at the heart of treating any disease outbreak — whether cholera or Covid today — there should be information and investigation: “The responses to the disease, unless they are governed by information, just like Ross points out that one microscope in the whole of southern India is not good enough. If you really are serious about removing this disease in its entirety, you have to reform your sewage collection, Now, those are the systemic changes that you need to think of when a disease like this occurs.”

Time Markers (mins: sec)

00:57 – Ross meets a man from a tribe
03:05 – Ross joins the Indian Medical Service
04:35 – Ross heads to Bangalore
05:07 – Bangalore looks like an English village
06:15 – Conditions in Black’s town
07:15 – Ross quarantines people, destroys property
08:40 – Ross takes careful notes
11:20 – Ross makes recommendations
12:10 – Information is important during outbreaks

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Reading List

Jain, S. and Sarin, A. (2020, April 20). Contact tracing, hotspots and plodding through sewers: Cholera in Bangalore 1895. The Federal.

Sinden, R. E. (2007). Malaria, mosquitoes and the legacy of Ronald Ross. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 85(11), 894–896.


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