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    A new WHO initiative takes aim at Anopheles stephensi, an invasive malarial mosquito species that thrives in cities and is expanding across Africa

    VCWG
    05 October 2022

    A new WHO initiative takes aim at Anopheles stephensi, an invasive malarial mosquito species that thrives in cities and is expanding across Africa

    Located at a critical crossroads of international trade between Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, the bustling port of Djibouti welcomes hundreds of ships every day. In the not-too-distant past, a dangerous stowaway may also have disembarked there, and its arrival in Africa could potentially derail anti-malaria efforts across the continent.

    This unwanted intruder is the mosquito species Anopheles stephensi. Native to parts of South Asia and the Arabian Peninsula, An. stephensi mosquitoes are very good at transmitting malaria to humans and, unlike other vectors of the disease in Africa, flourish in urban settings.

    In 2012, when An. stephensi was first detected in Africa, Djibouti reported only 27 presumed or confirmed malaria cases and seemed well on its way to eliminating the disease. But by 2020, the country’s malaria caseload had reached over 73 000.

    Number of reported malaria cases in Djibouti, 2010–2020

    Graph An. stephensi in Djibouti
    Source: World malaria report 2021

    Stephensi is very competitive and efficient in malaria transmission,” says Colonel Dr Abdoulilah Ahmed Abdi, a health advisor to Djibouti’s president who was instrumental in sounding the alarm about this deadly new malaria vector. “At the same time, it’s very adaptable to urban areas.”

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