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Infectious!

A new form of Malaria, the infectious disease that is endemic to Sub Saharan Africa and in parts of South-East Asia, Eastern Mediterranean, Western Pacific, and the Americas, has started creating troubles in the Dark Continent. Experts are worried, as a new species of mosquito has seemingly arrived in the continent, especially in Ethiopia, from India!

At present, most of the health-related attention is concentrated on COVID-19 Pandemic. However, there is a steady increase in the number of deaths worldwide from diseases, like malaria. As per statistics, more than 0.4 million people worldwide died of malaria in 2019 and 94% of them were Africans! Although proper treatment of malaria is available in Africa, the new infection has triggered fresh tension…

According to a research on insect-borne diseases jointly carried out by the Netherlands and Ethiopia, this new malaria infection has been spread by Anopheles Stephensi, a primary mosquito vector of malaria in urban India that is included in the same subgenus as Anopheles Gambiae, the primary malaria vector in Africa.

It is to be noted that Plasmodium Falciparum is the most common of the four human malaria parasites across much of Sub-Saharan Africa. The other three parasites are P vivax, P malariae, and P ovale. The distribution of P vivax is concentrated in the Horn of Africa, covering Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan. P falciparum accounts for almost all the malaria mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it is often stated that the continent bears over 90% of the global P falciparum burden. Recent bioinformatics analysis of changes in human ecology suggests that about 6,000 years ago, P falciparum populations expanded rapidly in Africa and spread worldwide, coincident with human population growth and subsequent diasporas facilitated by the dawn of agriculture. This parasite has exacted a heavy mortality toll on Africa’s population, evidenced by the selection for several human survival mechanisms, such as the genetic polymorphisms associated with red cell structure and function.

Experts are of the opinion that the prevalence of malaria in urban Africa was not that high, as the people staying in the rural areas got afflicted, mostly. Very recently, the people in the urban areas have started suffering from malaria. This urban malaria hardly has relationship with rural malaria because village mosquitoes cannot spread the disease in urban areas. “Mosquitoes live in a particular region. Anopheles mosquitoes spread the malaria infection in rural areas, but not in urban areas. Anopheles Stephensi mosquitoes are responsible for spreading malaria in urban areas,” said Dr Debashis Biswas, a Kolkata-based Indian Entomologist.

Anopheles Stephensi

Meanwhile, the African researchers have claimed that the malaria parasite found in urban India is very similar with that of the newly-found parasite in Africa! “In the case of dengue, mosquito eggs, reaching from one country to another, can spread the disease. However, malaria can be spread in a different country only by infected people,” stressed Dr Biswas. The researchers in Africa have backed Biswas’ argument. They are of the opinion that the Indian mosquitoes might have reached Africa via aircrafts or ships. However, Dr Biswas is not ready to accept their logic without conclusive evidence. “Stephensai’s movements range from 0.8 to 2.5km from its birthplace. So, it is not possible to say anything about it until concrete evidence is found,” he added. According to Dr Biswas, there is nothing to fear even if malaria reaches Africa from Indian urban areas, as this malaria does not take a very terrible form.

In past, the Tiger mosquitoes of Asia had travelled to another continent. They are gaining strength in Northern Europe. They are also spreading some diseases in that part of Europe. Similarly, the Africans were not familiar with Anopheles Stephensi mosquitoes. That is why the worried African doctors have started monitoring malaria-related cases.

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