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Breakthrough in fight against malaria

 A feeding female Anopheles stephensi mosquito. [AP photo]

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) has termed the discovery of a parasite that blocks the transmission of malaria from mosquitoes to human beings as a major breakthrough in the fight against the disease.

The microbe in anopheles mosquitoes blocks transmission of Plasmodium, the malaria parasite from insects to people.

According to ICIPE, the microbe, which has been named Microsporidia MB, is passed on from female mosquitoes to their offspring at a high rate and it does not kill or cause obvious harm to the mosquito host.

In its annual report, ICIPE noted that the discovery would come in handy in dealing with thousands of malaria cases which have left tens dead.

“This knowledge paves the way to investigate a viable dissemination strategy to increase the spread of the microbe among mosquito populations, which will lead to a transformative malaria transmission-blocking intervention,” reads the report.

The report noted that the studies had provided insights into the floral dimension of mosquitoes, including seminal research on the connection between an invasive plant ‘Parthenium hysterophorus’ and mosquitoes.

“There are possibilities of using compounds from these highly destructive invasive plant roots to bait pregnant mosquitoes,” said the report.

ICIPE further noted that it had developed an economic PCR kit to deal with and identify jiggers (Tungiasis) which is a skin disease caused by the female sand flea.

“We have developed a simple, affordable thermography technology to detect tungiasis-associated inflammation and interactions between parasites and hosts,” said ICIPE.

In her end-of-year message, ICIPE Chief Executive Officer Segenet Kelemu said that over the past decade, insect-related menaces had increased across the continent.

Dr Kelemu noted that the new threats piled on to existing challenges, including a plethora of crop pests, as well as vectors that transmitted human and animal diseases.

“These hazards are compounded by escalating factors such as climate change, poor soils, variations in land use and landscapes and rising urbanization,” she said.

Kelemu said that there was a need to transform the food system, to provide a fast-rising population with healthy, adequate, safe, nutritious food, without harming the ecosystem.

“We should tackle Africa’s disproportionate burden of vector-borne diseases as well as emerging and re-emerging viruses through integrated health systems,” she said.

“We should improve livestock health and productivity while addressing their polarized role in greenhouse gas emissions and environmental degradation,” she added.

Kelemu further added that ICIPE had a firm belief that despite the emerging challenges, opportunities for development in Africa were enormous.

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