A literature review of the use of DDT to fight malaria

Linah Adhiambo Nyamori, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. First synthesized in 1874, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) was not used until the second half of World War II after its insecticidal properties were discovered in 1939. For decades DDT has been used globally with the intent of eradicating malaria. This began in 1955 when the eighth World Health Assembly launched a global campaign selecting DDT as the chemical of choice for the eradication of malaria. The United States banned DDT use in 1972 partially due to the publication of “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson in 1962 which suggested that DDT was harmful to the environment, wildlife and is a carcinogen. Objectives. To critically review the literature on DDT, and evaluate its importance in malaria prevention and control. Methods: The design of this systematic literature review is a narrative summary and evaluation of the papers reviewed. The data came from searches using PubMed and MEDLINE which are free and publicly available databases. Inclusive criteria that were considered during the search are English language peer reviewed journal articles published in the last 20 years. The keywords were: “insecticidal and agricultural use of DDT”, “human impact of malaria”, “economic impact of malaria”, “benefits of DDT”, “effects of DDT”, “importance of malaria control”, and alternatives to DDT for malaria control. Results. Malaria continues to be one of the most common infectious diseases and creates a tremendous global public health problem. WHO recommends DDT for malaria vector control because compared to other pesticides, it is the most persistent in indoor spraying. Conclusion. Indoor spraying of DDT in malaria endemic areas may cause increased exposure of the chemical to humans; however I conclude that the overall benefits outweigh the risks because more lives are saved due to fewer infections with malaria.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Nyamori, Linah Adhiambo, "A literature review of the use of DDT to fight malaria" (2010). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1474688.