Using ecological observations to improve malaria control in areas where Anopheles funestus is the dominant vector

Kahamba, N. F., Finda, M., Ngowo, H. , Msugupakulya, B. J., Baldini, F. , Koekemoer, L. L., Ferguson, H. M. and Okumu, F. O. (2022) Using ecological observations to improve malaria control in areas where Anopheles funestus is the dominant vector. Malaria Journal, 21(1), 158. (doi: 10.1186/s12936-022-04198-3) (PMID:35655190) (PMCID:PMC9161514)

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The most important malaria vectors in sub-Saharan Africa are Anopheles gambiae, Anopheles arabiensis, Anopheles funestus, and Anopheles coluzzii. Of these, An. funestus presently dominates in many settings in east and southern Africa. While research on this vector species has been impeded by difficulties in creating laboratory colonies, available evidence suggests it has certain ecological vulnerabilities that could be strategically exploited to greatly reduce malaria transmission in areas where it dominates. This paper examines the major life-history traits of An. funestus, its aquatic and adult ecologies, and its responsiveness to key interventions. It then outlines a plausible strategy for reducing malaria transmission by the vector and sustaining the gains over the medium to long term. To illustrate the propositions, the article uses data from south-eastern Tanzania where An. funestus mediates over 85% of malaria transmission events and is highly resistant to key public health insecticides, notably pyrethroids. Both male and female An. funestus rest indoors and the females frequently feed on humans indoors, although moderate to high degrees of zoophagy can occur in areas with large livestock populations. There are also a few reports of outdoor-biting by the species, highlighting a broader range of behavioural phenotypes that can be considered when designing new interventions to improve vector control. In comparison to other African malaria vectors, An. funestus distinctively prefers permanent and semi-permanent aquatic habitats, including river streams, ponds, swamps, and spring-fed pools. The species is therefore well-adapted to sustain its populations even during dry months and can support year-round malaria transmission. These ecological features suggest that highly effective control of An. funestus could be achieved primarily through strategic combinations of species-targeted larval source management and high quality insecticide-based methods targeting adult mosquitoes in shelters. If done consistently, such an integrated strategy has the potential to drastically reduce local populations of An. funestus and significantly reduce malaria transmission in areas where this vector species dominates. To sustain the gains, the programmes should be complemented with gradual environmental improvements such as house modification to maintain biting exposure at a bare minimum, as well as continuous engagements of the resident communities and other stakeholders.

Item Type:Articles
Keywords:Review, malaria transmission, vector ecology, larval source management, ITNs, IRS, Ifakara.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Ngowo, Halfan and Okumu, Professor Fredros and Baldini, Dr Francesco and Ferguson, Professor Heather and Kahamba, Ms Najat
Authors: Kahamba, N. F., Finda, M., Ngowo, H., Msugupakulya, B. J., Baldini, F., Koekemoer, L. L., Ferguson, H. M., and Okumu, F. O.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Biodiversity, One Health & Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Malaria Journal
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN (Online):1475-2875
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2022 The Authors
First Published:First published in Malaria Journal 27(1):158
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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