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[LUSAKA] A new study has pinpointed the mosquito species responsible for most malaria cases in southwestern Cameroon — an area where little is known about the transmission of the disease.

The research, published in Malaria Journal last week (17 January), could help in planning and implementing malaria control throughout West Africa.

Focusing on three coastal towns in southwestern Cameroon, the 12-month study examined the transmission rates of three mosquito species that carry the malaria parasite.

Anopheles gambiae was found to be responsible for the highest rate of infection and transmission — 73 per cent — in the region, while Anopheles funestus accounted for 23 per cent and Anopheles nili, four per cent.

Different malaria carriers breed in different areas and at different times. A. gambiae, for example, breeds in small pools of muddy water formed by human activities, such as well-digging.

The results could improve the planning and implementation of malaria control activities in coastal Cameroon and the whole of West Africa, according to lead author Jude Bigoga, from the University of Yaounde, Cameroon. The findings would help scientists understand the behaviour of different carriers and how they should be controlled.

Emmanuel Kafwembe, director of Zambia's Tropical Diseases Research Centre, told SciDev.Net, "Knowing how each [carrier] behaves will help scientists develop a system of controlling each differently".

Malaria is a major health problem in Cameroon. According to the World Health Organization, the country has over 900,000 cases a year. Children less than five years old are the most affected.

Unlike the southern forested and northern savannah areas, little is known about distribution and transmission of the disease in Cameroon's coastal regions.

Link to the full paper in Malaria Journal

Reference: Malaria Journal 6, 5 (2007)/doi:10.1186/1475-2875-6-5

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