Africa: New Malaria Tool to Help Track Insecticide Resistance

Kisumu — A new interactive online mapping tool will help track insecticide resistance (IR) in malaria-causing mosquitoes, experts say.

The tool, the IR Mapper, "consolidates reports of insecticide resistance in malaria vectors onto filterable maps to inform vector-control strategies". Data consolidation for the programme was conducted by the Swiss company Vestergaard Frandsen and a partnership between the Kenya Medical Research Institute and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KEMRI/CDC). The map interface was developed by ESRI Eastern Africa.

The system, which was launched in April, allows users to view new data from tests on insecticide susceptibility and resistance mechanisms, and to retrieve existing published data, including historic information from as far back as 1952. These data can be used to generate tailored maps from 51 countries.

"IR Mapper is a tool used to view results from insecticide studies (WHO susceptibility tests) using malaria mosquitoes collected from sites throughout the world," Willis Akhlwale, head of disease control at the Kenya's Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, told IRIN. "It can also be used to view results from investigations of insecticide-resistance mechanisms (molecular and biochemical assays) in malaria mosquitoes collected from the same or different sites."

The data on the interactive site is extracted from scientific articles and reports and from IRBase, an existing database dedicated to storing data on the occurrence of insecticide resistance in mosquito populations worldwide.

According to Akhlwale, the tool will help inform policy on malaria vector-control strategies: "Although the site is accessible to all, most users are likely to be decision-makers for mosquito-control strategies and policies, research scientists, and those involved in vector-control product development."

IR a serious threat

Current malaria-control mechanisms are heavily reliant on insecticide-based interventions. These include indoor residual sprays and the use of long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets.

In 2012, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) launched a strategic plan to help fight insecticide resistance in malaria vectors.

WHO estimated that the world might see 26 million more new cases of malaria if insecticide resistance was not adequately dealt with.

According to WHO, insecticide resistance is widespread and is reported in nearly "two-thirds of countries with ongoing malaria transmission. It affects all major vector species and all classes of insecticides."

WHO's strategic plan said: "Current monitoring of insecticide resistance is inadequate and inconsistent in most settings in which vector control interventions are used."

Malaria, a preventable and treatable infectious disease, remains one of the world's biggest killers. There are an estimated 219 million malaria infections and 660,000 deaths annually; many of the fatalities occur in children under five years old.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations. ]

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