New tech shows success in war against malaria

Sunday September 16 2018

Mosquito (Aedes punctor) female on human arm.

Mosquito (Aedes punctor) female on human arm. 

By Gladys Mbwiga @gladysmbwiga

Dar es Salaam. Malaria has over the years remained to be one of major threats to public health and economic development in Africa.

In Tanzania, malaria is among leading causes of morbidity and mortality, especially in children under five and pregnant women. Malaria is also the leading cause of outpatients, inpatients, and admissions of children less than five years of age at health facilities. According to a 2017 report by the World Health Organisation, in 2016, 91 countries reported a total of 216 million cases of malaria, an increase of 5 million cases over the previous year.

The global tally of malaria deaths reached 445,000 deaths, about the same number reported in 2015.

In Tanzania, largest successes have been achieved in the last decade with national scale-up of new preventive strategies and improved quality and access to testing and treatment.

Thanks to efforts by the government and other stakeholders malaria prevalence has dropped from 14 per cent in 2015-16, according to the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey to 7 per cent according to recent studies.

The Ifakara Health Institute (IHI) has developed a new malaria control technology that has proven to be successful and effective in killing mosquitoes inside houses by 76 per cent.

The new technology, called “Eave Tube”, contains removable gauze that is inserted into the wall under the roof of the house where most mosquitoes prefer to pass when entering the house.

It blocks them from entering houses and effectively kills them with special insecticides-laced.

The tubes are installed by drilling a hole and inserting the plastic tube then afterwards an insecticide-treated mesh is inserted to block and kill the mosquitoes.

Speaking on the Eave tube, the project head, Dr Ladislaus Mnyone, said the technology was tested in Dar es Salaam and Morogoro among 2,000 individuals and the result of the research was positive in killing mosquitoes by 76 per cent and reducing malaria infections by 20 per cent.

“Ninety-five per cent of individuals whose houses were tested gave out positive remarks of the technology with the survey results showing that the technology has to an extent also reduced the malaria cases by 20 per cent in houses were the tube were installed,” he said.

The technology that has been introduced by IHI is a collaboration with the In2care of the Netherlands under the sponsorship of the European Union, the Human Innovation Development Funds (HDIF) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The research was conducted in 500 houses at Mbweni in Dar es Salaam and 1,500 in Mikese, Morogoro, aims not only at eliminating malaria but also other diseases that are caused by mosquitoes. They include dengue, Chikungunya and elephantiasis.

The number of Eave tube to be installed ranges from four to eight in a house, depending on the size of the house and cost around Sh50,000 to Sh100 000 which are the cost of the tubes, for installation and insecticides.

“The price for installation is a little bit high but after the Eave tube have been installed and individual will only have to pay Sh6,000 for changing insecticide-treated meshes after every six months,” he said.

The insecticide-treated meshes are placed in the tube to block and kill mosquitoes and need to be refreshed at least two times a year and used inserts can be recycled by washing and retreating them.

After the tubes are inserted all open spaces along the roof are closed thus making it easy for mosquitoes to be blocked in the tubes because all other pass ways are closed. The mesh inserted at the roof enables safe use of small insecticide qualities.

Individuals where the technology was tested stated that apart from reducing mosquitoes Eave tubes also ventilated their houses and increased indoor comfort.

“Most people hate using mosquito nets because of the hot weather but Eave tubes support ventilation in houses and allow fresh air inside the houses, thus allowing people to use mosquito nets without having to worry about the heat,” he said.

The best part is that if the Eave tubes are installed in many houses in an area, Dr Mnyone says the rate of mosquitoes will be reduced.

“This does not only positively affect an individual but the society in the neighbourhood will also see the changes happening from reduction of mosquitoes around the areas,” he says.

According to Dr Mnyone, among several other benefits, the technology has proven to be effective against all mosquito species even the ones that have become difficult to kill using the available chemicals.

“With years some mosquito species have become resilient to insecticides but with Eave tube all species are eliminated regardless of their resilience.”

In addition he further stated that the use of Eave tubes does not mean that other methods such as mosquito nets should not be used, the combination of all this method together will maximise the effect of control.

“Not all mosquitoes enter the houses through the opening on roofs. Others enter through other opening such as doors. So other methods such as mosquito nets should be used simultaneously to bring about maximum impact of control.”

Dr Mnyone explains that the proper use of Eave tube provides year round and cost-effective mosquito control and malaria prevention hence significantly reducing the direct cost and indirect cost that could have been incurred to treat the disease.

He says: “The Eave tube technology has huge potential of complementing existing mosquito control methods thereof strengthening the global effort towards malaria elimination.”

The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health, Dr Mpoki Ulisubisya, said there was the need for Tanzania to eliminate malaria instead of just controlling it.

“If other countries have done it we can also do it.”

Southern African Development Community member states have set a goal to eliminate the deadly disease by 2030.

HDIF deputy head Natalie Smith said the new technology brings about positive changes in society and she hopes that it will be scaled up so as to reach more people. The technology is being reviewed by the WHO Vector Control Advisory Group as a new malaria vector control paradigm.