The spread of a resistant mosquito strain known as Anopheles stephensi, dubbed “Steve” is posing a new threat to the fight against malaria in Nigeria and other African countries. – the two main pillars of malaria prevention in Africa.
According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, The Anopheles stephensi mosquito has been detected in seven African countries.
There is a concern because the mosquito has developed resistance to pyrethroids, which are the most commonly used insecticides in mosquito nets and for indoor residual spraying, IRS. These are the two main pillars of malaria prevention in Africa.
WHO reports that the mosquito is resistant because it carries a genetic mutation called “kdr”, which alters the way its nervous system reacts to pyrethroids.
This mutation makes it less likely for the insecticide to kill the mosquito, allowing it to survive and reproduce. Findings reveal that Steve has been spreading rapidly in West Africa, and is now found in several countries, including Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger.
According to the Carter Centre, malaria kills an estimated 655,000 people each year, mostly children, with about 250 million cases of the disease reported worldwide.
Approximately 80 percent of all cases and 90 percent of all malaria deaths occur in Africa, where one child in 10 dies before the age of 5 from malaria.
Malaria is a major public health concern in Nigeria where around 200,000 malaria-related deaths occur every year, hence the emergence of the resistant mosquito could be an obstacle to ongoing control efforts.
However, efforts are ongoing to mitigate the threat. Already, public health experts are working on multiple measures. This includes the development of new pesticides that are efficient against kdr-resistant mosquitoes.
The close monitoring of mosquito populations and following the progress of the resistant strain is critical for guiding control operations.
Other mosquito control strategies, such as larviciding and biological control are being targeted in locations where pyrethroids are no longer effective.
Community education, awareness and adoption of conventional preventative measures like insecticide-treated bed nets remain crucial. By investing in research, developing new tools, and implementing effective control strategies, Nigeria and other affected countries can still achieve their malaria elimination goals.
Reports say it will require concerted effort from governments, researchers, public health officials, and communities to overcome this new challenge.