Alert over new malaria trend

A mother and her baby sleep under a mosquito net. Malaria-causing mosquitoes are changing their feeding habits, getting their meals earlier in the evening before people go to sleep under nets. Photo/Anthony Kamau

Malaria-causing mosquitoes are changing their feeding habits, getting their meals earlier in the evening before people go to sleep under nets.

Mosquitoes are known to feed late at night but researchers say the vectors are now feeding early in the evening, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the nets.

This change in feeding time is yet another way the insects are circumventing some of the latest technology that has lowered the incidence of malaria in the country by 40 per cent.

These findings are among the 800 studies on malaria which will be presented next week in Nairobi at one of the largest scientific conferences to be held over a single disease in Africa.

The Fifth Multilateral Initiative on Malaria Pan-African Conference, organised by the Kenya Medical Research Institute, is expected to attract over 3,000 scholars.

Because of the change in the mosquitoes’ feeding habits, researchers are calling on people living in malaria endemic areas to use the nets in combination with a repellent to reduce the likelihood of being bitten.

According to the study, an international non-governmental organisation is planning to start the distribution of highly subsidised mosquito repellents in malaria endemic areas.

This new challenge comes as more evidence indicates that the mosquito is increasingly developing resistance against insecticides used in treating bed nets, especially chemicals derived from pyrethrum.

Immunity

Interestingly, a study carried out in Kenya, hypothesises that although the country has seen a dramatic reduction of malaria in children under five years, the disease burden may shift to older children.

Researcher Caroline Gitonga, argues that younger children may not be building significant immunity, which could make them soft targets for the parasite later in life.

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