Alarm as dangerous malaria vector detected in Kenya

Alarm as dangerous malaria vector detected in Kenya

File image of malaria vector Anopheles stephensi. PHOTO|COURTESY

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) Entomology Research team have announced the discovery of a new malaria vector (transmitter) which poses a serious threat to Kenyans.

In a statement from acting Director General Samuel Kariuki on Sunday, KEMRI said the vector known as Anopheles stephensi was first detected in Laisamis and Saku sub-counties of Marsabit County, where the research was being conducted.

The discovery, made alongside the Ministry of Health's Division of National Malaria Programme (DNMP), shows that the vector thrives in both urban and rural settings which may translate to a high transmission rate.

"Our surveillance studies indicate that the new vector, unlike the traditional malaria-causing mosquitoes namely Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles fimfests, is not only Invasive and can spread very fast to new areas, but also adaptive to different climatic and environmental conditions," a part of the statement reads.

KEMRI says that further surveillance and studies are ongoing to establish the extent of the strain's distribution and mosquito infectivity rates. 

Meanwhile, members of the public have been urged to continue utilizing the available malaria control tools such as using mosquito nets, repellents, and wearing long-sleeved clothing to prevent mosquito bites. 

Anopheles stephensi is unique as it thrives in man-made containers such as jury cans, tyres, open tanks, sewers, cisterns, overhead tanks, and underground tanks and in polluted environments. 

Until the discovery in Kenya, Anopheles stephensi was known to occur and spread malaria in South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Arabian Peninsula. 

The mosquito species has been expanding its Geographic range over the last decade, with detections reported in Djibouti (2012), Ethiopia and Sudan (2016), Somalia (2019), and Nigeria (2020), according to KEMRI. 

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