The CDC notes that in 2019, an estimated 409,000 people globally died of malaria – but a majority of those who died were children in sub-Saharan Africa. In fact, 94% of those who died were located in Africa. According to Medical XPress, however, changing home design could help reduce malaria transmission. By altering the home layout, and raising the huts’ floors off of the ground, researchers hypothesized that mosquito bites would fall. Learn more about the study, and its findings, in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
To begin, let’s explore why malaria is so prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the CDC, this is due to a variety of conditions. Outside of the very efficient and high-transmitting mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, other factors include:
the predominant parasite species…Plasmodium falciparum, which is the species that is most likely to cause severe malaria and death; local weather conditions [which] allow transmission to occur year round; [and] scarce resourced and socioeconomic instability [that] have hindered efficient malaria control activities.
Additionally, the housing might influence the transmission. An estimated 80% of mosquito bites transmitting malaria occur indoors at night. Thus, researchers from Durham University questioned whether raising the house floors would influence mosquito bites and malaria transmission. This is because mosquitos tend to fly lower to the ground. So by raising the floors, the researchers hypothesized that mosquitos would be less likely to find, and bite, humans.
To begin, researchers created four experimental homes in Gambia. Every night, two men slept in each hut. During this time, the men slept under mosquito nets to preserve their health and prevent transmission. Mosquitos were tempted to the huts using light traps.
Altogether, the experiment lasted for around 40 nights (slightly over 1 month). During the forty days, the huts were moved every 10 days through a series of four heights: ground-level, 1 meter high, 2 meters high, or 3 meters high. Researchers determined that:
- Increasing the hut floor lowered the number of mosquitos within the hut. At 3 meters high, the huts had 84% fewer mosquitos than huts at ground level.
- Altogether, researchers hypothesize that mosquitos transmitting malaria evolved to bite humans at ground level. Thus, by lifting the huts, it allows humans to escape this.
- The mosquito reduction correlates to 40-90% malaria transmission reduction. This is similar to insecticide-treated bug nets, which are sometimes difficult to use because of the region’s temperatures.
As the population of sub-Saharan Africa is meant to double by 2050, implementing this solution could help reduce malaria spread in the most highly impacted area.
Malaria, a mosquito-borne illness, is caused by Plasmodium parasites transmitted through the bite of an infected female Anopheles mosquito. However, the parasites may also be spread through blood transfusions, sharing needles, or from mother-to-child (in the womb). Symptoms typically appear within 10 days to 2 weeks following infection. Although symptoms can be severe, it is possible to recover from malaria – especially with proper treatment. However, without treatment, the illness can be fatal. Symptoms include:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Night sweats
- High fevers
- Shaking chills
- Muscle, chest, and abdominal pain
- Rapid or abnormal heart rate
- Flu-like symptoms
- Persistent cough
Symptoms may be constant or come in waves or “attacks.” Without treatment with antimalarials, malaria can lead to severe complications, including:
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Low blood sugar
- Metabolic acidosis
- Respiratory distress
- Cerebral malaria
- Organ failure
Learn more about malaria.