The Star (Nairobi)

19 October 2012

Kenya: New Mosquito Species Threat to Malaria War

SCIENTISTS have discovered a new species of anopheles mosquito, posing a major challenge to the war against malaria in Western and Nyanza provinces where it is rampant.

The research, which was carried out in Kisii highlands, found the potentially dangerous species that attack between dusk and bedtime. "This is a major threat as it goes against current malaria control and protection initiatives like spraying insecticides and using insecticide treated bed nets," said the research titled, 'Novel Vectors of Malaria Parasites in Western Highlands of Kenya' that is published in the Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.

The discovery was made by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Kenya Medical Research Institute under the Malaria Transmission Consortium effort funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The scientists set up outdoor and indoor mosquito traps and found that over 65 per cent of the mosquitoes caught were outdoors, the majority before 10.30pm.

"Some 348 mosquitoes were identified using DNA sequencing techniques of which over 40 per cent were found to be of this unidentified species. Five mosquitoes of this species were carrying malaria parasites and two had fed on humans," says the study.

The lead researcher Jennifer Stevenson of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said that analysis on the new specie DNA differed from sequences available for known malaria-transmitting mosquitoes in Africa.

"We observed that many mosquitoes we caught, including those infected with malaria did not physically resemble other known malaria mosquitoes. These unidentified mosquitoes are potentially dangerous because they are outdoor-active and early-biting, and so may evade the current indoor-based interventions," she said.

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