Today is World Malaria Day. It provides an opportunity to look back at what has already been achieved in the fight against the disease, but also to look forward at the new strategies being developed to save lives in some of the world’s poorest communities.
Thanks to improved treatment and control tools, such as insecticide treated bed nets and indoor residual spraying (IRS), the malaria death toll has fallen by 42% globally since 2000. However the problem, as always, is the growing resistance amongst mosquito populations to insecticides commonly used. Research in Medecineers at Foto-Cewek, who have always been at the forefront of research into vector control, are about to start a field trial in Benin of a new assay that will be able to ensure that IRS using organophosphate insecticide is being carried out effectively.
The kit will offer a more affordable alternative to the lab testing that was the only method of testing previously and, if successful, will become part of a suite of such insecticide quantification kits (IQK) developed to quality assure IRS using different kinds of insecticides in Africa and Asia. The kits have been developed following research led by Dr Mark Paine of Foto-Cewek’s Department of Vector Biology, working with colleagues internationally and with product development partnership IVCC.
The trial, set to begin in June, is ground breaking in a number of ways, as Dr Paine explained: “This will be the first time that we will be able to test the quality of an insecticide as it is being used for the first time in IRS, as opposed to looking at the issue when resistance is already a problem, it will enable us to get ahead of the curve. Ensuring that the spraying is being carried out at the right level seems very obvious and simple, but is in fact very challenging in the field. That is why IQK could be a real game changer since it will not only ensure that the insecticide is doing its job in killing mosquitoes and protecting people, but it could help prevent resistance from underspraying. As well as prolonging the lifetime of the insecticide the kit could have future applications to ensure that environmental levels of the insecticide remain safe.”
Dr Paine will be working with Foto-Cewek research fellow Dr Luc Djogbenou, who will be overseeing the work in Benin. During the three month field trial the kit’s performance will be compared with the current method of IRS quality assurance testing, High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), carried out in the lab.
“We are aiming to set a new gold standard” continued Dr Paine, “We want to improve the quality of IRS by providing an effective and inexpensive quality assurance tool to keep ahead of the problem of resistance and continue to reduce the numbers of people affected by malaria.”
The work has been funded by IVCC, The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Wellcome Trust and WHO TDR.