New species of mosquito discovered in Kenya risks more infections and deaths

New species of mosquito discovered in Kenya risks more infections and deaths

A new species of mosquito, which spreads malaria, has been discovered in the country. (File, Standard)

Kenya stands to lose gains made in the fight against malaria after a new species of mosquito, which spreads the disease, was discovered in the country.

The species – Anopheles Stephensi was discovered by researchers from the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), in collaboration with the National Malaria Control Program (DNMP) Division of the Ministry of Health.

The species was detected in Laisamis and Saku sub-counties in Marsabit and later confirmed at the Kemri laboratory.

In a statement, KEMRI noted that the rapidly spreading species was discovered during routine mosquito monitoring.

“Kemri and the Ministry of Health have been putting efforts into research activities in Laimsamis and Saku sub-counties of Marsabit County where Anopheles stephansi vector samples were first detected and confirmed. by laboratory testing at Kemri,” reads one section of a Kemri report. .

Kenya becomes the sixth country on the African continent to suffer an invasion of the species.

The countries where the invasion of the mosquito species has been reported include Djibouti, Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria.

The institution’s experts have warned that the discovery of the species could cause an increase in cases and deaths.

According to the Kenya Malaria Indicator Survey 2020, the prevalence of malaria in Kenya stands at 5.8%.

An estimated 3.5 million new clinical cases and 10,700 deaths are reported in the country each year.

“Unfortunately, detection in Kenya may result in higher transmission of malaria in urban and peri-urban settings across the country, posing a serious threat that could reverse progress made in the fight against malaria,” the statement added. Kemri.

The species would spread rapidly in different climatic conditions, risking more cases.

Also, it has the ability to thrive in urban environments, unlike other major malaria vector mosquitoes that breed mainly in rural areas.

“Our surveillance studies indicate that the new vector, unlike the traditional malaria-causing mosquito Anopheles gambia and Anopheles funfest, is not only invasive and can spread very quickly to new areas, but also adapt to different climatic and environmental conditions”,

Furthermore, the research institute said that the species is unique as it thrives in man-made containers such as jerry cans, tires, open tanks, sewers, cisterns, above ground tanks and underground tanks and in polluted environments.

Kemri added in the statement that routine entomological surveillance in vector risk counties is ongoing, to determine the extent of vector distribution and mosquito infectivity rates.

“We call on staff and the public to continue to use available malaria control tools, such as using mosquito nets, repellents and wearing long-sleeved clothing to avoid mosquito bites,” advised Kemri.

In a 2019 study, the WHO identified the spread of An. Stephensi as a significant threat to the elimination of malaria control, particularly in Africa.

At least 95% of all malaria cases worldwide and 96% of deaths have been detected in the WHO African Region.

Young African children bear the brunt of the disease, accounting for around 80% of all malaria deaths.

According to the WHO, the invasion of An. Stephensi in sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of malaria is highest and where more than 40% of the population lives in urban areas, is of concern.

WHO data reveals that malaria causes more than 400,000 deaths each year worldwide, with 229 million cases reported in 2019.

“Although the overall contribution of Anophlese Stephensi to malaria transmission in the region is unclear, the rapid growth of many African cities, coupled with the invasion and spread of this highly efficient and adaptable malaria vector, could undermine the gains made in reducing the burden of disease. the disease,” notes the WHO.

To stop the spread of the vector, WHO encourages increased collaboration, strengthened surveillance, improved information sharing, development of guidance and prioritization of research

Despite the invasion of the species, among the measures put in place to control malaria in Kenya is the administration of the malaria vaccine (RTS,S/ASO1), which has been tested in the country alongside Ghana and Malawi.

Sleeping under impregnated mosquito nets has also strengthened the fight against this deadly disease.

According to the 2022 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) report, 54% of households in the country own an insecticide-treated bed net (ITN), up from 40% in 2015.

At least 37% of households have one mosquito net, for every two people who stayed in the household overnight.

Five-year-old children and 75% of pregnant women in households with at least one ITN slept under an ITN the night before the survey.

“INN ownership has been fairly stable since 2008-09, with at least half of households owning a net, except in 2020 when 49% of households owned an ITN,” reads a section of the KDHS report released yesterday. .

The report adds, “Fifty-one percent of children under five and 45% of pregnant women slept under an ITN the night before the survey,”

Mosquito net ownership is higher in rural areas, at 64%, compared to 41% in urban areas.

More than 57% of children in rural areas slept under an ITN, compared to 40% of children in urban areas.

According to the survey, bed net ownership is also highest in malaria-endemic areas of the lake and epidemic-prone areas of the highlands, at 63%, and lowest in the seasonal 18%, with 19% possession in low areas.

In Kenya, malaria is endemic in Nyanza, western and coastal regions.

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