Link Jih-ching – The Lancet Infectious Diseases
The eminent Taiwanese entomologist, who contributed greatly to malaria control and the understanding of vector-borne diseases, died on February 16, 2022
Lien Jih-ching, a renowned Taiwanese entomologist, malaria researcher and public health specialist, died on February 16, 2022, at the age of 96.
Lien was popularly known as Dr. Mosquito in Taiwan, thanks to his work on malaria. Taiwan successfully eradicated malaria, according to the WHO, as early as 1965, and Lien is said to have played an important role in eradicating the disease from the country. In addition, he reportedly identified and named 29 of the approximately 140 species of mosquitoes found in Taiwan.
Although the media and social media sources did not specifically highlight Lien’s childhood and early education, a report published in Taiwan News said Lien had joined the Taiwan government’s epidemic prevention staff after completing his studies. However, he is said to have obtained a doctorate in medical sciences from the University of Nagasaki, Japan.
According to a report by Taipei Time, Lien began working on mosquitoes at an early age. He was only 15 when he began his first research on mosquitoes, working part-time at the Tropical Medicine Research Institute of Taihoku Imperial University (currently known as the National University of Taiwan, based in Taipei).
Lien worked with Japanese entomologist Omori Nanzaburo to generate evidence for the prevention and treatment of dengue fever. When a dengue epidemic hit Taiwan in 1942, out of Taiwan’s total population of 8 million at the time, nearly 5 million people were infected with dengue fever. Lien himself also suffered from dengue virus infection around this time, and the experience had a strong impact on his later life. His experience as a dengue patient prompted him to work more intensively on mosquitoes and other insects.
To eradicate malaria from Taiwan, Lien assembled a team of researchers who, under his leadership, conducted various studies on mosquitoes and malaria and took the necessary steps to eradicate the disease. Under Lien’s leadership, Taiwan became the first country in the world to achieve WHO certification to become malaria-free in 1965. However, after malaria was eradicated from Taiwan, Lien focused on dengue .
“Malaria eradication, dengue fever studies and mosquito species discovery – Professor Lien has done a phenomenal job [in] these fields. He has also carried out important research work in the field of prevention and management [of] tropical diseases,” commented Swapan Jana (Society for Social Pharmacology, Kolkata, India). “I followed his research for a long time – he will always be remembered for his work in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases,” Jana said. The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
“Professor Lien was an outstanding scientist with a decent heart,” said Tsai Kun-hsien (College of Public Health, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan). “His death is a huge loss for the country. For me, I lost my mentor in research, teaching and practice [of] vector control. Professor Lien’s work has not only contributed to the fight against malaria in Taiwan and Africa, but has also promoted global health with the One Health approach. Kun-hsien continued, “Professor Lien and I have been researching and teaching together for a long time. He was a down-to-earth guy and always conscientious in his studies”. He also recalled that Lien did not rely on others in routine work such as collecting and classifying specimens; he (Lien) liked to think and solve problems for himself.
Lien’s age could not stop his quest for work. He continued to work as the leader of research teams that traveled to different parts of the globe, assisting governments in various countries in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases, media reports said. To help São Tomé and Príncipe control malaria and train public health personnel, Lien reportedly carried out missions in the country, even when he was in his eighties.
Echoing media reports, Kun-hsien said Lien practiced “what he preached by traveling to endemic areas of Africa even at the age of 80. There he led the younger generation to work in hopes of eliminating malaria in São Tomé and Príncipe. during his lifetime”. Lien’s contributions to São Tomé and Príncipe are said to have helped reduce the incidence rate of malaria in the country from nearly 50% in 2003 to 1.01% in 2015, and the country has recorded no no malaria-related deaths since 2014.
In 2011, Lien received government recognition for his work, as the Third Class Presidential Order of Brilliant Star; also, for his contributions to São Tomé and Príncipe, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taiwan awarded him, in 2016, the Great Medal of Diplomacy.
Media and social sources did not specifically reveal Lien’s cause and location of death or any details about his family members.
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