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Self-medicating to prevent malaria: house sparrows


SperlingG / Raffinger En.. / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

House sparrows protect themselves from malaria by lining their nests with and eating quinine-containing leaves from the paradise flower tree.

"During an outbreak of malaria in Calcutta during 1998, Dr. Dushim Sengupta and fellow scientists at Calcutta's Center for Nature Conservation and Human Survival were surprised to witness house sparrows lining their nests with (and also eating) leaves from the paradise flower tree (Caesalpina pulcherrima), a species whose leaves are rich in the anti-malarial drug quinine. Confirming that their choice of leaves was deliberate, the sparrows swiftly gathered fresh leaves of this same species when the scientists removed those already lining their nests." (Shuker 2001:216-217)
About the inspiring organism
Med_house_sparrow_0025 House Sparrow
Passer domesticus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common name: House sparrow

Habitat(s): Artificial - Aquatic, Artificial - Terrestrial, Forest, Grassland, Rocky Areas, Shrubland, Wetlands
Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Threat Categories LONG_LC IUCN Red List Status: Least Concern

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Urban designs that incorporate anti-malarial plants, new anti-malarial drugs.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Urban planning, medical

Shuker, KPN. 2001. The Hidden Powers of Animals: Uncovering the Secrets of Nature. London: Marshall Editions Ltd. 240 p.
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