In sub-Saharan Africa, malaria kills more than one million people every year. In many African countries, malaria control guidelines and many school text books state that malaria-transmitting mosquitoes can be controlled by clearing bushes from around dwellings – a practice carried out by many rural Africans who believe that mosquitoes rest in bushes.
Unfortunately, this advice is based on recommendations in books produced for the Asian market. Indeed, the advice sometimes dates back to the pre-DDT era in colonial British Borneo that now forms part of Indonesia and Malaysia. As such books are relatively cheap, they are imported into Africa.
However, the mosquito species responsible for the spread of malaria in southeast Asia are different from the primary vector in Africa, Anopheles gambiae. Indeed, female An. gambiae prefer to lay their eggs in open, sunlit pools. By clearing vegetation, rural Africans are inadvertently creating more sunlit pools suitable for the development of An. gambiae larvae.
And is it really true that A. gambiae mosquitoes rest in bushes during the day?
Richard Mukabana of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Nairobi, Kenya, set out to answer this question. He designed a series of experiments to elucidate the behaviour of An. gambiae, the most important local malaria-transmitting mosquito species in Africa, with the aim of identifying simple control procedures that can be implemented in rural areas. In doing so, he has collected empirical data that dispels the bush clearing myth and he has assembled crucial evidence that provides a basis for amending a policy that is simply not practical or effective in tropical Africa.
To read more about Mukabana’s research, please download the full article from the TWAS website (Click on link below)
Note to Editors: Each year, TWAS offers some 100 research grants of up to US$10,000 to scientists from developing countries for research projects in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics. The grants are intended to cover the costs of specialized equipment, essential consumable material and scientific literature. In 2004, Richard Mukabana of the University of Nairobi, Kenya, was awarded such a grant. This is a report on the research efforts that this grant has supported.