Battle mosquitoes

What are you imagining? Of course, mosquitoes don't fight! Their simple existence and reproduction cycle is enough to kill even the mightiest of warriors. Let us hope they never gain enough magic to become sentient and consciously decide to attack us!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png

Table of Contents

Animals: mosquito insects and plasmodium parasites

The mosquitoes

It is a very well-known fact that mosquitoes love water, especially stagnant water. They need it for their reproduction cycle to lay their eggs in it. This means that they can always be found near swamps. Any fertile female is always on the lookout for a fresh bloody meal so as to use our proteins and iron to create her eggs...   Swamps are present all over France. They also appear punctually during flooding or during big construction work, such as the recent building of the big boulevards in Paris ordered by the king.   This project in particular has allowed our military Medical Corps to observe the link between the stagnant water appearing in construction holes and the quick proliferation of mosquitoes—and all without those distinguish individuals having to leave the city or their office! As a result, we now understand the importance of draining the land to dry all the swamps in the country so as to get rid of those nuisances.  
I don't want any of you complaining about not being in garrison in Paris right now! See all that you are avoiding?
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png
  Thus, ditches have started to be dung all around the French countryside to drain water from potential fertile land and create fields. Yet those ditches themselves are still filled with water, and in any case, they do not last much past the start of a battle. The explosions caused by the artillery and battle mages are enough to completely transform the ground and ensure it returns to its original state. And thus, "battle mosquitoes". This blight can sometimes even end up causing even more damages than the enemies!   Humans are a prime meal for mosquitoes. Any patch of skin left uncover will be a worthy target. Once they bite—or rather pierce our skin with their proboscis—and start injecting us with their saliva and pumping up our blood, they always contaminate us with the traces of their last meal. This is the real risk...  
I'm telling you all, we should do a big ritual to get rid of all the mosquitoes present inside the border barriers! What good have those animals ever done? That would certainly be a good use for all those damn Austrian prisoners we still have to feed!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png

The disease

Among all the nasty diseases that a mosquito can transmit, the most common in Europe is malaria. Caused by a tiny animal, a parasite that lives directly in our bloodstream.   9 to 30 days after a mosquito bites, the victims are hit with the symptoms: fever, tiredness, vomiting, and headaches. It can also lead to yellow skin, seizures, coma, or death. The characteristic symptom is a cyclical occurrence of sudden coldness and shivering, followed by fever and sweating. The cycle occurs every 36h to every 3 days. In some individuals, the disease is so severe that it strongly touches the brain, the lungs, or the liver and causes death.   The tiny parasitic animals causing it have been named plasmodium. So common are they that there exist several species of them, all preying on us! Thanks to the long history of this epidemic, we have had more than ample time to study them and their life cycle.  
Never underestimate the power of disease. Any cursory look at history will show you how many great empires have been brought down by a tiny insect!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png
  The mosquitoes infect us with a small motile and infective form, the sporozoite. This sporozoite then travels through our blood vessels to go to our liver. Once there, it reproduces asexually and thus produces thousands of merozoites. This period is asymptomatic and last 8-30 days, at the end of which the merozoites burst from the liver cells.   Those clever animals wrap themselves in the remnants of the membranes of those cells so as to stay hidden from us as they go all over the bloodstream and infect red blood cells. Inside of these they will undergo a series of asexual multiplications, each producing between 8-24 infective merozoites. Once the cell cannot endure this any longer, it burst opens and free those merozoites all over the bloodstream to infect new cells. Each of those bursts causes a new wave of fever in the human host.   Since they are hiding inside our cells, our body cannot recognise and kill them. However, our spleen can do so and destroy infected cells. To avoid this, those animals make the cells stick to small, out-of-the-way blood vessels so as to immobilise them and avoid the spleen.  
We should all take their exemplary camouflage technique as model! Look deep inside your mind for the parasite within you. Feel the plasmodium. Let yourself become the plasmodium!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png
  At the same time, some merozoites develop into immature gametocytes, of which there is a female and a male type. When a new mosquito comes to bite us, they take up those while drinking our blood. The gametocytes then mature inside the gut of the mosquito. The female and male gametocytes fuse together to form a fertilised motile zygote, the ookinete, that will then develop into sporozoites. Those sporozoites migrate from the gut to the saliva gland, ready to be injected into a new human host at the next bite of the mosquito.  
Millennia, those things have been with us, within us! Using us all like some damn incubator machine! Since we know all about them, you'd think we would have defeated them in all that time, but no. They are formidable enemies, and the war has been long and arduous. Still, the final battle is finally upon us! It is more than high time we go on the offensive!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png
  What has caused the difficulties in fighting the disease is, of course, the innate magic that every individual carries inside of them. While we have managed to find some magic that can allow us to go beyond it and observe what is going on inside the body, we still are a long way from being able to do anything about it. Indeed, the innate magic will fight all along against any of our interferences and it has the advantage of the home field... Attempting an assault that is strong enough to overcome the defences will only result in the patient's death.   Since the 17th century, we have been using the bark of the Cinchona trees to fight this disease, as the inhabitants of the Peru country in the Americas have shown us. However, since they refuse to sell the seeds of the plants to everyone, they are free to ask for extravagant prices for it and we are limited in supply. Thankfully, in 1820, our French researchers Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Bienaimé Caventou finally managed to isolate from it the marvellous quinine compound!  
Once again, the world is saved by the French!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png
  The plasmodium digests haemoglobin inside red blood cells, creating a disposal product, haem. Haem is highly toxic because of its iron components that is highly reactive and can create free chemical radicals and free magical particles that can then go on to cause havoc inside of our cells. This is something the parasites do not desire if they want to continue reproducing.   To avoid this, they cover the haems with a protective layer. Quinine prevents this, causing the death of the cells and preventing the parasites from multiplying further. It can also cause minor side effects in the human host: headache, ringing in the ears and deafness, trouble seeing, sweating, low blood platelets, irregular heartbeat and making people more prone to sunburns.  
But what are those minor inconveniences compared to the chance of finally being rid of the swarm of tiny parasitic animals living in our body and bursting our cells from the inside?
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png


A plasmodium parasite swimming inside the cell of a mosquito by Ute Frevert and Margaret Shear on Wikimedia Commons

Life cycle of a malaria parasite by NIH on Wikimedia Commons

A red blood cell infected with malaria by Rick Fairhurst and Jordan Zuspann on Wikimedia Commons

Cinchona calisaya plant by Wikimedia Commons

Quinine by Wikimedia Commons

The worst is yet to come...

Unfortunately, just as this ray of hope appears, another deathly disease comes to cast its shadow on us: the black vomit or yellow fever. Still limited to Spain and a few cities in the South, it nevertheless needs to be taken very seriously. Its symptoms are high fevers, severe muscular pain, excruciating headaches, and the characteristic jaundice and coughing up of black materials. All of that followed by delirium, coma, and death....   We have yet to manage to adequately isolate the tiny animals responsible for this disease, as there does not seem to be anything alive that causes it. The responsible may be one of that animate-inanimate materials that have been discussed recently in relationship with smallpox or flu... We urge His Majesty to urgently invest important fund in this research so that we can find an adequate treatment before those diseases devastate our army and our population.  
Since you're always boasting of the merit of your inestimable family members, you better use the relationship to tell them to make sure the politicians listen to the damn medics for once!
— Sergeant
Sergeant small.png

Cover image: A mosquito by Егор Камелев on Pixabay


Author's Notes

Summer Camp 2021 prompt 12: A plant or animal that lives in an inhospitable region.   Sources:
Napoleon’s Army: The Insects That Defeated It by Geri Walton.

Please Login in order to comment!
12 Jul, 2021 12:21

Once again, the world is being saved by the french!   I think my absolute favorite part of this excellent article is the way the Sergeant is talking about the mosquitoes like he does - almost like a conquering army that must be defeated with good french steel! :D

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
12 Jul, 2021 12:38

Thanks :D I had fun writing that and it's really something I need to remember to do more often since the narrators are soldiers! And incomprehensible science jokes too :p

12 Jul, 2021 13:06

The best kind of jokes!

Journeyman Gege16
Gege Escriva
12 Jul, 2021 15:09

The Sergeant's quotes are always so funny! Great article as always! I like a lot how detailed it is, it reminds me of my biology books! (so, it brings me so many good memories! <3). Like Pasteur used to say "Gentlemen, it is the microbes who will have the last word". We humans may think of ourselves and our weapons las the ultimate war machines, undefeatable, but the tiniest creatures such as parasites and other microorganisms are the ones who actually are.

Explore the Kingdom of Moskova with me!   Is time for  Summer Camp!  
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
12 Jul, 2021 16:29

Malaria especially is one of the oldest disease that has been around :( All those microorganisms are as fascinating as they are terrifying :p Thanks for the comment :D

12 Jul, 2021 21:07

*shrieks!* :o I hate bugs! But very good article.

~ Eliora Yona ~
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
12 Jul, 2021 21:25

That header photo is particularly horrible, isn't it? XD And the other one is not as big but it looks particularly angry O_o

13 Jul, 2021 03:09

Aren't they always angry? XD

~ Eliora Yona ~
13 Jul, 2021 14:50

I must admit, I'm unclear what about these mosquitoes make them specifically "battle" mosquitoes.

Author of prize-winning RPG settings Dark Shadows and Cinders of the Cataclysm. Designer of the narratively focused Celenia D10 RPG System.
Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
13 Jul, 2021 15:46

Yes, you're right. I came up with the idea at first and then I forgot to really talk about it in the article... I'll come back to it next month. The idea is that the mosquitoes are everywhere on the battlefield and that it's where most soldiers get contaminated rather than in their civilian life.

Sage eccbooks
E. Christopher Clark
20 Jul, 2021 00:46

Ahhhhh! There's a reason I find mosquitoes as frightening as any Lovecraftian horror I've seen people whip up elsewhere on World Anvil. Great work here on incorporating them into your world.

Eternal Sage AmélieIS
Amélie I. S. Debruyne
20 Jul, 2021 01:40

Thanks :D Life before modern medicine was horrifying enough on it own, but mosquitoes are a real horror...

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