Plague control methods used in agriculture could help in the fight against malaria

July 26, 2012

The fact that the global death toll from malaria has dropped by 25 percent over the last ten years would suggest that efforts to control the malaria mosquito are succeeding. But control methods are still largely based on chemical insecticides. A risky business, according to entomologists and experts in biological pesticides from America and Wageningen. There are already indications that the malaria mosquito is becoming resistant to these insecticides.

In the Policy Forum in the July edition of the scientific journal , the researchers describe this as an alarming development. Having seen the effects of disease control methods in agriculture, they are now calling for different strategies to control malaria, based on the multiple methods and resources and carrying far fewer risks. The fight against malaria is some fifty years behind the .

In 2011, the (WHO) announced that the number of cases of malaria world-wide had dropped by 17 percent, and the number of fatalities by a staggering 25 percent. This was put down to the widespread use of (pyrethroids) against the malaria mosquito, particularly in Africa. The insecticides were used in impregnated mosquito nets or as an ingredient in household sprays.

However, over the last few years a number of have reported that the mosquitoes are becoming increasingly resistant to these chemicals. The authors of the article suggest that alternative strategies must be found to slow down and ultimately reverse this trend.

1950

The researchers think that a lot could be learned from studying plague control strategies in the agricultural sector. Current methods for controlling the malaria mosquito are still at the level of the methods used to control in agriculture in 1950. It has long been known that a strategy relying almost exclusively on will only exacerbate the problem of resistance to disease and plagues.

The best strategy in the agricultural sector is the simultaneous and coordinated use of a range of different methods, such as monitoring and predicting disease and plagues, the deployment of natural control methods and the cultivation of resistant crops. Pesticides should only be used as a last resort, in situations where there is no other option. This strategy has become known as ‘integrated pest management’ (IPM) within the sector and has substantially curbed the risk of resistance to insecticides. In their article, the researchers claim that although it should not be seen as a universal remedy, the approach has laid the cornerstone for many agricultural production systems in both developed and third-world countries.

The authors would like to see a similar approach used in the fight against malaria, whereby several different instruments are used to combat the insects that transmit diseases: ‘integrated vector management’ (IVM). This is the key to the effective and sustainable control of plague insects.

Not a ‘quick fix’

In order to develop effective IVM, thorough knowledge of the various control strategies must first be gathered. Surprisingly little research has been carried out into this field, say the authors, who are now arguing the case for substantial research efforts and funding. They also state that it is essential for local populations to be involved when developing control programmes.

The researchers warn that there is no ready-made solution (or ‘quick fix’) for eradicating the .

Explore further: Scientists engineer mosquito immune system to fight malaria

More information: Thomas MB, Godfray HCJ, Read AF, van den Berg H, Tabashnik BE, et al. (2012) Lessons from Agriculture for the Sustainable Management of Malaria Vectors. PLoS Med 9(7): e1001262. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001262

Related Stories

Scientists engineer mosquito immune system to fight malaria

December 22, 2011
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute have demonstrated that the Anopheles mosquito's innate immune system could be genetically engineered to block the transmission of malaria-causing parasites to humans. ...

More sustainable integrated vector management strategies are needed for malaria control

July 10, 2012
Insecticide resistance is threatening the effectiveness of insecticide-treated bed nets and indoor insecticide sprays to control adult mosquito vectors, and so more sustainable integrated management strategies that use optimal ...

The malaria mosquito is disappearing -- but it is not just good news

August 25, 2011
The incidence of malaria in many African countries south of the Sahara is falling rapidly. A Danish-Tanzanian research group has discovered that the mosquito carrying the malaria parasite has practically disappeared from ...

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.