New Asian Mosquito Could Bring Malaria to African Cities, Warn Scientists

Sudan Announces the Launch of a Project to Combat the Asian Mosquito in Joint Research With the University of Liverpool

Haffiya Abdalla

Already grappling with the highest incidence of malaria with more than 90% of global cases, Africa should be wary of an Asian mosquito species that have the potential to spread the disease into the continent’s urban areas – subjecting an additional 126 million people to risk – a new analysis suggests.

A new malaria mosquito is emerging in African cities, with potentially devastating consequences for those living there, according to a new study.

The larvae of Anopheles stephensi — India’s main mosquito vector of malaria — are now “abundantly present” in locations across Africa, researchers from The Netherlands’ Radboud University Medical Center and Ethiopia’s Armauer Hansen Research Institute said. Vectors are living organisms that can transmit infectious pathogens between humans, or from animals to people.

This mosquito species only appeared in Africa a few years ago. Now, this invasive insect is “abundantly present” in water containers in cities in Ethiopia — and highly susceptible to local strains of malaria, researchers have said.

Most African mosquitoes that can transmit malaria are known to breed in rural areas. However, experts were already concerned this particular mosquito has found a foothold in urban areas, including cities in Ethiopia, Sudan, and Djibouti, which researchers said could increase the malaria risk for urban populations.

750 million genetically engineered mosquitoes have been approved for release in the Florida Keys.

Malaria, which is transmitted through the bite of female Anopheles mosquitoes, is both a preventable and treatable disease — yet 409,000 people died of it in 2019.

The African region was home to 94% of all malaria cases and deaths in 2019, according to the World Health Organization.

Researchers studied if the mosquitoes would pose a risk to health by spreading local malaria parasites.

“To our surprise, the Asian mosquito turned out to be even more susceptible to local malaria parasites than our Ethiopian mosquito colony. This mosquito appears to be an extremely efficient spreader of the two main species of malaria,” said Teun Bousema, professor of epidemiology of tropical infectious diseases at Radboud University Medical Center in Nijmegen, in a statement.

Researchers warned that swift action must be taken to stop the spread of the mosquitoes to other urban areas on the African continent in a study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases on Wednesday.

“We must target the mosquito larvae in places where they now occur and prevent mosquitoes from spreading over long distances, for example via airports and sea ports. If that fails, the risk of urban malaria will rise in large parts of Africa,” study author Fitsam Tadesse, a doctoral student at the department of medical microbiology at Radboud University Medical Center, said.

The Federal Ministry of Health revealed the launch of a project to combat the Anopheles mosquito in 9 states at a total cost of $3.5 million, in cooperation with the Liverpool University of Tropical Medicine, the State of Ethiopia, and the Faculty of Medicine, University of Khartoum.

The project’s medical entomologist, Dr. Hamouda Teuk, said in a press statement after the meeting of the Federal Minister of Health, Dr. Haitham Mohamed Ibrahim, with members of the joint mission in the ministry, that the project will be implemented in Sudan and Ethiopia after the appearance of this type of mosquito in the Horn of Africa, including the two countries.

Pointing to the initiation of a research study in 9 states in Sudan, including Kassala, Gedaref, White Nile, Sennar, Khartoum, North, and River Nile, after inspecting 61 stations in these states, it was confirmed that 55% of the areas in which these mosquitoes originate from Asia are present.

Indicating that the project will continue until 2024 AD to contribute to the knowledge of the extent of its cause in increasing the rate of malaria infections, as it is a new type, and then develop methods of control and control, and for this reason, the partnership with all the aforementioned parties came.

Teuk pointed out that the joint delegation provided enlightenment to the minister about the project, noting that one of the objectives of the visit to Sudan is to train cadres at the Sennar Malaria Center, pointing to tomorrow’s visit to Gezira State to the Al-Ma’ileq area, as it is within the study areas, and from there to Sennar and then return to Khartoum and visit Tuti Island as from the study areas.

Teuk stressed that the ministry will benefit from the study in developing a strategic plan to combat malaria.

The specialist in medical entomology and molecular biology at the Sennar Center for Research and Training of Malaria at the Federal Ministry of Health, Jihad Al-Taher, expected that the study would contribute to the development of correct and effective means and methods in combating this type of mosquito and knowing the extent of its resistance to the insecticides used in addition to determining its responsibility in transmitting malaria and others.

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