A study suggests that a mosquito species known to be a vector of malaria in Asia is now spreading across the African continent. Its expansion would constitute a danger for urban populations in particular.
“According to a new modeling study, an Asian mosquito carrying malaria that has adapted to urban life could proliferate in dozens of cities on the African continent”, report Science. Main vector of malaria in urban areas – especially in India – Anopheles stephensi was first seen in Africa in 2012 in Djibouti, later in Ethiopia (2016) and Sudan (2019).
And now its expansion could pose an additional threat in Africa, where malaria kills nearly 400,000 people per year according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In any case, this is what the published study announces. September 14 in the review Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), with judged results “Disturbing” by Science.
According to this work, of the 68 cities on the continent where the population exceeds one million inhabitants, 44 constitute suitable habitats for A. stephensi. In total, therefore 126 million people living in these agglomerations – from Durban, South Africa, Casablanca, Morocco, obviously via Lagos, Nigeria – are potentially threatened.
No immunity in North Africa
“And A. stephensi continues its incursions, there is a real possibility of serious epidemics which could be catastrophic ”, write the researchers. The fact that northern cities of the continent are favorable to the proliferation of the mosquito is “Particularly worrying”, underlines the scientific journal, because the countries of North Africa currently have very little or no malaria and the population is not immune at all.
L’WHO has already called for increased monitoring ofA. stephensi in Africa and this new work should encourage city councilors in big cities to take its recommendations seriously, hopes Marianne Sinka, zoologist at the University of Oxford, first author of the study. For Tamar Carter, biologist at Baylor University in Texas interviewed by Science, who did not participate in the study, the maps produced by the team could be useful in monitoring and combating malaria.
However, the review continues:
Tamar Carter believes that more research is needed to gauge the extent of the threat A. stephensi poses to African cities – and decide how best to allocate scarce resources to them. ”
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