An Asian mosquito species plays a prominent role in the rise of resistant malaria in Africa, according to research in the journal Nature. The mosquito spreads extremely quickly and can survive all year round.
Malaria is caused by a parasite that selects mosquitoes as hosts. When those mosquitoes bite people, the disease is transmitted. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 247 million cases of malaria and more than 600,000 deaths worldwide in 2021, mostly in Africa. Children were hit the hardest because 80 percent of the fatalities were younger than five years old.
Research at Lancaster University, published in Nature Medicinehas now been shown that the Asian malaria mosquito Anopheles stephensi plays a prominent role in the spread of a drug- and diagnosis-resistant form of malaria in Africa.
Fast and contagious
The mosquito was first detected in Djibouti in 2012 and subsequently spread at unprecedented speed to the Horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea – as well as beyond to Yemen, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana.
‘The mosquito that spread from Asia to the Horn of Africa was the cause of a major malaria outbreak in Ethiopia.’
In homes where the Anopheles stephensi mosquito was spotted, people were 270 percent more likely to become infected with malaria than in places where the mosquito was not present. In addition, it appears that the parasite on the Asian mosquito is resistant to medication and the infection is also more difficult to diagnose afterwards.
‘The mosquito that spread from Asia to the Horn of Africa was the cause of a major malaria outbreak in Ethiopia. Anopheles stephensi poses a major public health problem due to its rapid spread, ability to survive year-round and resist current insecticides,” says lead author of the study Luigi Sedda.
Anopheles stephensi uses the numerous water reservoirs in the rapidly growing African cities to reproduce. Sedda fears that the variant could undo the previous positive evolution in malaria control and vaccines.