Washington, Beritasatu.com – One species of mosquito native to Asia threatens tens of millions of urban dwellers in Africa at a higher risk of contracting malaria. On Monday (14/9/2020), one study stated that the insect was known to have spread across the African continent.
Malaria killed 400,000 people in 2018, mainly children in Africa. Malaria is caused by a parasite that spreads about 40 species of mosquitoes among humans when they suck blood.
The Anopheles gambiae group of mosquito species is the main cause of the spread of malaria in Africa. But these insects do not like the polluted puddles seen in cities and have not yet learned to put their larvae in urban freshwater tanks.
That is why most malaria transmission in Africa occurs in rural areas.
In the new study published in Proceedings on the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), medical entomologist Marianne Sinka, from the University of Oxford, mapped the spread of another species, Anopheles stephensi, which is native to Asia.
This species has learned to sneak through gaps to access water tanks, preferring those made of brick and cement.
“These mosquitoes are the only ones that are really good at getting into the city center,” Sinka told AFP.
Anopheles stephensi caused a major outbreak in the city of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa in 2012, a city where malaria is almost non-existent. Since then, malaria has appeared in Ethiopia, Sudan and elsewhere.
Sinka and colleagues combined location data for the species with spatial models that identify environmental conditions that characterize preferred habitats: urban areas with high density, hot spots and abundant rainfall.
The study found that 44 cities were “very suitable” locations for the insects. The study places 126 million more Africans – mainly around the equator – at higher risk of malaria, compared to currently.
“That means Africa, which has the highest malaria burden, could have a bigger impact,” said Sinka, noting that 40% of the continent’s population resides in urban areas.