New malaria bed nets could ‘prevent millions of cases and deaths’
A new malaria bed net, specifically designed to kill insecticide-resistant mosquitoes, has been praised by scientists as a breakthrough in malaria prevention.
Following a two year trial in Burkina Faso the bed nets, which are doused with a combination of chemicals, reduced the number of clinical malaria cases by 12%, compared with other bed nets.
The research was conducted by Durham University, Liverpool’s School of Tropical Medicine, Burkina Faso’s Centre National de Recherche et de Formation sur le Paludisme, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute.
Professor Steve Lindsay of the department of biosciences at Durham University, who worked on the study, commented:
“The 12% reduction may look small, but it’s actually huge: if we had rolled the nets out across the whole of Burkina Faso, then we would have reduced the number of malaria attacks in children under five by 700,000, or by 1.2m for the whole population.”
The findings were published in the Lancet last week and have been praised as a major step forward in reducing cases of malaria in Africa, which is home to 91% of all global malaria deaths.
Currently, the traditional bed nets contain a single pyrethroid insecticide which malaria mosquitos are increasingly resistant to.
The study investigated 91 villages in Burkina Faso where conventional bed nets were replaced by the combination nets, which contain pyrethroid insecticide and an insect growth regulator, pyriproxyfen, which reduced the ability for mosquitos to reproduce and shortens their lives.
Professor Steve Lindsay added that mosquitos are less likely to develop a resistance to both chemicals in the net, making them a better form of protection.
The findings come at a critical time for Malaria reduction as transmission rates are increasing following years of decline. In 2016 216 million people were infected with malaria, a 5 million increase from the year before. Burkina Faso experienced an increase in Malaria cases in 2016.
Malaria deaths disproportionately affect under-fives, accounting for over 60% of malaria deaths. The study found that the combination nets reduced overall exposure to mosquitos and accounted for a 52% reduction in moderate anaemia in children. Malaria anaemia is a leading cause of infant mortality.
Dr Alfred B Tiono, Head of the Public Health Department at the Centre National de Recherche et de Formation sur le Paludisme in Burkina Faso added:
“This new invaluable tool would enable us to tackle more efficiently this terrible and deadly disease that affects many children. If deployed correctly, we could certainly prevent millions of cases and deaths of malaria.”
As malaria carrying mosquitos bite mainly at night, with 80% of transmission occurring indoors, the use of bed nights are critical in prevention transmission.
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Image credit: UNICEF