Malaria transmission at high altitudes in Ethiopia

Daygena TY, Massebo F, Lindtjorn B. Variation in species composition and infection rates of Anopheles mosquitoes at different altitudinal transects, and the risk of malaria in the highland of Dirashe Woreda, south Ethiopia. Parasites & vectors. 2017;10(1):343.

Background  The transmission of malaria is heterogeneous, and varies due to altitude. The information on whether the transmission of malaria is indigenous or imported to highland areas is scarce. Therefore, this study aimed to assess the species composition and infection rates of Anopheles at different altitudinal transects, and the risk of malaria if any in the highland of Dirashe Woreda, South Ethiopia.

Methods  This study was conducted in Gato (low altitude; average elevation of 1273 m), Onota (mid-altitude; average elevation of 1707 m) and Layignaw-Arguba (high altitude; average elevation of 2337 m) from August 2015 to April 2016. Anopheles mosquitoes were sampled using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) light traps from thirty houses (ten houses from each village). The circum-sporozoite proteins (CSPs) rate and entomological inoculation rate (EIR) of Anopheles mosquitoes were estimated. For the epidemiological survey, malaria cases were collected from laboratory registration books of selected health facilities from (August 2015-April 2016). A cross-sectional survey was done to collect data on malaria vector control activities in each village (August-September 2015).

Results  One thousand two hundred sixty-eight Anopheles mosquitoes comprising Anopheles arabiensis, An. demeilloni, An. cinereus, An. pharoensis, An. funestus-group, An. pretoriensis, An. christyi, An. ardensis and An. tenebrosus were identified in the study area. Anopheles arabiensis was the dominant species in Gato, whereas An. demeilloni was the dominant species in Layignaw-Arguba. Five mosquitoes, three An. arabiensis from Gato and two An. demeilloni from Layignaw-Arguba, were positive for Plasmodium falciparum CSPs. Plasmodium falciparum CSP rate was 0.4% (95% CI: 0.08–1.15) for An. arabiensis in Gato, and it was 0.64% (95% CI: 0.08–2.3) for An. demeilloni from Layignaw-Arguba. The P. falciparum EIR of An. arabiensis was 8.6 (95% CI: 2.4–33.4) infectious bites/person/nine-months in Gato. Plasmodium falciparum was dominant in Gato (88%) and Onota (57.5%), whereas in Layignaw-Arguba P. vivax (59.4%) occurred most frequently. Increased malaria cases were observed in children age 5–14 years in Gato (P < 0.05), whereas in Onota and Layignaw-Arguba there was no statistically significant difference in malaria cases among the age groups. Households owning at least one long lasting insecticidal net were 92.7% in the study area, and 77.6% slept under the net during the preceding night of the survey. About 64.4% of the households in Gato were protected by the indoor residual spray. However, the spraying was done when the density of local malaria vectors was low.

Conclusion  Incrimination of Plasmodium CSP positive Anopheles species and the presence of malaria in children under five years in high altitude Layignaw-Arguba may justify the existence of indigenous malaria transmission and the need for effective malaria control. Further investigation and confirmation using more sensitive molecular techniques are however needed to consider An. demeilloni as a proven vector of malaria in Ethiopia.

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