A paper published in The Lancet Global Health journal is sounding the alarm about the growing threat of malaria potentially spreading to countries where the disease is not typically endemic.
The rapid increase in the population of an invasive species of mosquito Anopheles Stephensi across urban settings from east to west Africa, poses a viable threat of malaria spreading to warmer European countries around the Mediterranean over the next decade.
A stephensi, native to rural and urban China, parts of Asia and the middle east was first discovered in Africa in Ethiopia in 2012. Because it shares similar behavior patterns to the Aedes mosquito, which is responsible for the ever-growing morbidity burden of the dengue virus now present in 129 countries, urgent action is needed to control its spread.
Presented by The MENTOR Initiative, the paper outlines how A stephensi has adapted to breed, like Aedes, in man-made water containers in densely populated urban settings. This has huge implications for increased malaria morbidity and mortality potentially affecting millions of people.
With a large proportion of urban residents more immunologically susceptible than rural communities, patients that get infected with malaria are at greater risk of developing severe clinical symptoms with a proportionately higher risk of death.
Richard Allan, MENTOR CEO and lead contributor to the paper, said:
“The aggressive spread of Anopheles stephensi is closely linked to increases in population movement and rapid, unplanned urbanization which leads to poor water quality, sanitation, water container removal and hygiene systems.