A team of researchers have successfully culled mosquito populations in nine West African villages by cutting off their food supply, reducing the risk of malaria in those areas.
By removing flowers from a common plant that has become a horticultural bully – the Prosopis juliflora shrub – the researchers were able to kill off lots of the older, adult, female, biting insects that transmit malaria.
Experts believe that by reducing the amount of nectar (energy) available to these older “granny” mosquitoes, the cycle of malaria transmission can be stopped.
That’s because it’s only these Anopheles mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite in their saliva and transmit it to people when they bite and draw blood. An infected person can then pass the parasite on to other younger, biting, female mosquitoes, increasing the spread of the parasites further.
In the villages where the flowers of the Prosopis juliflora shrub were removed, mosquito numbers were seen to drop by almost 60%.
While there is no direct proof, the researchers believe the mosquitoes died of starvation.
Reporting the team’s findings in the journal Malaria Research, Prof Jo Lines, a malaria control expert from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the novel approach held amazing potential, alongside other malaria prevention strategies.