Progress in Malaria Research

Steps have been taken in sub-Saharan Africa in an attempt to increase the areas of irrigated agriculture. The development of more crops such as rice, corn and sugarcane provides food security for the continent, but as it unfortunately turns out, also provides an ideal habitat for malaria mosquito larvae. These crops, specifically the rice paddies, provide the mosquitos with shelter, protection and nutrients from pollen.

rice1

Rice paddy field

Image Source: http://megagriculture.gov.in/public/package_of_practice/rice.aspx

As a consequence, this has led to the increase of mosquito populations in inhabited areas, and an increased abundance of the Anopheles arabiensis vector, thereby  increasing the risk of malaria.

Side note: Here is a picture briefly explaining the cycle of the spread of malaria:

malaria-life-cycle

Image source: Adrian V. S. Hill 

I know people who have been affected by malaria and it is unpleasant to say the least but potentially lethal for those living in third world countries where medicine is underdeveloped in oder to treat the disease effectively.

With that said, there are some good news thanks to progress of scientific research:malaria-mosquito

Image source: http://www.malariasite.com/tag/anopheles-mosquito/

A significant factor for the successful proliferation of mosquito populations (and spread of malaria) is a suitable aquatic habitat for the female mosquito to lay eggs. 

Researchers have concluded that pregnant females are attracted to a specific odour that is present in the air surrounding rice fields. They identified through the development of a synthetic rice odour that simulated the original which triggered the same behaviour in the mosquitos.

The researchers hope to use the synthetic “lure” as a future tool to control the spread of malaria. 

As a follow up to this pre-field study, the researchers are planning to test the synthetic rice odour under field conditions to analyze/evaluate its success in comparison to naturally created odours in the landscape.

 

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