HOW AUSTRALIAN ENTOMOLOGIST WON THE WAR

SAVING THE PACIFIC
USING NATURAL CASE OF GERM WARFARE
By John Curnow, Vet ©

Stretcher bearers Owen Stanleys William Dargie 1947

Stretcher bearers Owen Stanleys, William Dargie, 1947

Throughout history, there has been a long association between war and infectious disease. During the Second World War, our Australian troops were fighting the Japanese along the Kokoda trail in New Guinea. The torrential rains, hot humid days followed by frigid nights left the soldiers at high risk of endemic tropical diseases such as malaria transmitted by mosquitos, and scrub typhus which is caused by the larvae trombiculid mites (chiggers) All the troops were at high risk and were being put out of action by these diseases, and this was a natural case of germ warfare. Australian entomologist, Bob McCulloch developed a repellent to protect and keep these mites off the Australian troops. The Japanese didn’t have any such repellents and were severely affected by scrub typhus as well as malaria, and became so sick that their fighting capacity was reduced. Bob McCulloch won an MBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his work in New Guinea and later became the director of the cattle tick research station at Wollongbar. He went on to prove that cattle ticks were carried by birds from Queensland to New South Wales causing tick infestations and deaths from tick fever in cattle.

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