Every 30 seconds a child dies of malaria and by 2006 over 247 million cases of malaria were reported resulting in a million deaths of mostly African children. It remains one of the world’s greatest childhood killers and accounts for close to 40% of public health funding.
Longlasting insecticide-treated bednets and artemisinin-based combination therapy has been the main method used to reduce malaria. However the surfacing of vectors resistant to insecticides used in bednets might compromise the efforts to eradicate the disease.
The two types of malaria control investigated in the study were house screening ‘ either full screening of windows, doors and closing eaves and other holes where mosquitoes could enter or screened ceilings only.
Researchers assessed whether either methods could prevent the entry of mosquitoes in homes leading to the reduction of anaemia related malaria among children in Farafenni town in The Gambia.
The UK Medical Research Council (MRC) funded study surveyed 462 households. Up to 188 homes were fully screened, 178 had screened ceilings while 96 had no screening. A trap was used to capture mosquitoes that had entered the homes.
Houses that received full screening experienced a 59 percent reduction of mosquitoes while those with screened ceilings showed a decrease of 49 percent.
Children from both the partly screened and fully screened homes were half as likely to have malaria related anaemia in comparison to those from unscreened homes.
Dr Laurence Slutsker and Dr John E Gimnig of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention welcomed the results but warned that further research was needed to determine whether the strategy could be incorporated with other prevention methods.
‘House screening to prevent malaria historically may have contributed more to malaria control and elimination than previously thought. However, further research is needed to determine when and how this strategy should be integrated with other vector control interventions such as long-lasting insecticide-treated bednets to provide added (or synergistic) benefits,’ they said.