Research buzzes along but science is still scratching the surface of beating malaria
Human activities are driving mosquito evolution
In 2017, malaria killed 435,000 people around the world. The vast majority of these deaths — 403,000 — were on the African continent. Most malaria cases are in sub-Saharan Africa.
My colleagues and I at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases track malaria cases and mosquito behaviour in SA. As part of our research we have looked at three key aspects.
One is the effect of human activity on mosquito biology. Here we looked at the effects of heavy metal pollution on various life history traits, as well as the expression of insecticide resistance in Anopheles arabiensis, which is one of the mosquito species that transmits malaria.
We also did research into what impact changes in climate are having on the efficacy of insecticides aimed at malaria vectors. And, finally, we looked at what the effect of higher temperatures is on the major malaria vector, An. arabiensis. An. arabiensis is extremely difficult to control. Besides already reported insecticide resistance, they are prone to avoiding insecticide treated nets and walls. These mosquitoes also tend to bite people outdoors, where little can be done for protection. Our work aims to understand the biology of this complex mosquito to track how changes in the environment are affecting the behaviour of this animal. This will hopefully inform malaria control strategies and bring us closer to eliminating the disease. Toxins The larval stage of the mosquito is aquatic. This vulnerable stage is crucial for the well-being of adult mosquitoes, in the same way that the health of a human baby will determine an adult’s future health. Many larval environmental factors hav...