New malaria vector discovered – not linked to Doornpoort-deaths

A new malaria vector has been discovered in South Africa says the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

“Yet this discovery does in no way link to the deaths of two women from Doornpoort,” said the NICD.

The NICD conducted tests in the Doornpoort area after Cheryl Pieterse and Jolynn Hocanin died within days of each other.

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No malaria carrying mosquitoes could be found during their investigation.

A recent scientific publication focused on the identification of a new malaria vector in South Africa.

“Two adult females of the mosquito species anopheles vaneedeni, one collected in the Mpumalanga province and another from northern KwaZulu-Natal province, were identified in a study conducted a year ago, was found to be infected with plasmodium sporozoites,” explained NICD in a statement.

“This means they were able to transmit the malaria parasites to people they fed on. Anopheles vaneedeni was shown to be capable of transmitting malaria 40 years ago in laboratory experiments, but until now has not been found infected in natural populations.”

NICD said this particular finding is interesting and important, but the extent of the contribution of this mosquito vector on malaria transmission in South Africa is not known at present.

“Bear in mind that in the intervening 40 years South Africa has, for the most part, implemented a very successful malaria control programme,” it said.

“The above finding bears no relationship to the current seasonal increase in malaria cases, including the cases in Tshwane and North West Province and the increase in cases in Lephalale/Thabazimbi in the Limpopo province.”

NICD said: “The timing of the A. vaneedeni publication coincided by chance with the reported malaria cases but the events are not linked. This finding, however, needs further exploration to assess the extent of the contribution of this species to malaria transmission in South Africa and what effect (if any at all) this may have on long-term malaria elimination strategies.”

ALSO READ: Malaria a lingering concern in the north

The recent deaths recorded in the north of Pretoria and North West province was a rare occurrence, said the NICD.

“None of these people had travelled to a known malaria transmission area. Unfortunately three of the patients passed away due to complications of malaria.”

NICD said though it was rare, a few cases of so-called “Odyssean” malaria or “mini-bus” or “suitcase” malaria are confirmed in Gauteng province each year and coincide with the seasonal increase in malaria cases in the usual malaria transmission areas from January to April.

“These cases do not represent an expansion in the malaria transmission areas in South Africa but rather, to translocation of an infected malaria mosquito from a malaria area.”

The department of health recently issued a warning to residents in the north who has water features in and around their homes.

Though no malaria carrying mosquitoes were found, the department still advises residents to take precaution.

“Please ensure that your swimming pool pumps and water feature pumps are functional, therefore ensuring that water is circulated at all times and not stagnating,” the department said in a statement.

Stagnated water is an ideal breading place for any mosquito and the health department advises residents to clean gutters or any other water containers regularly.

Healthcare practitioners are encouraged to be vigilant with respect to malaria in all patients with unexplained fever and flu-like illness, even in the absence of a travel history.

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