A paper published in The Lancet Global Health journal has highlighted the growing threat of malaria possibly spreading to countries where the disease is not typically endemic.
The population of Anopheles Stephensi, an invasive species of mosquito, has increased rapidly in urban settings across east to west Africa, posing a viable threat of malaria spreading to warmer European countries around the Mediterranean over the next decade.
This mosquito is native to rural and urban China, part of Asia and the Middle East, but was first discovered in Africa in Ethiopia in 2012. It shares similar behaviour patterns to the Aedes mosquito, which is responsible for the growing morbidity of the dengue virus, which is present in 129 countries. This is why action is required to control the spread.
The paper was presented by The MENTOR Initiative and outlined how this species has adapted to breed, like Aedes, in man-made water containers in densely populated urban areas, which could potentially impact millions.
A large proportion of urban residents are more immunologically susceptible than rural communities, so patients infected with malaria are at a greater risk of developing severe symptoms and having a higher risk of death.
Richard Allan, MENTOR CEO and lead contributor to the paper, said: “We must escalate our response to stop the potentially rapid development of urban malaria transmission and the spread of dengue viruses and other Aedes-borne viruses.
“It is also important that the surveillance of A stephensi is integrated into new and existing entomological surveillance programmes in Europe.
“The technical challenges of controlling A Stephensi and malaria in African urban settings are no more complex than those used to control diseases that Aedes mosquitoes spread. This presents a real opportunity for disease control and health agencies working together with water and sanitation services and urban planners to effectively protect the millions of people at risk.
“The combined health effect of decisive, proactive, integrated control in urban settings across invasive disease vector species will achieve real impact for donor investment and renewed trust for the years ahead.”