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[NAIROBI] An online mapping system to track insecticide resistance in malaria-causing mosquitoes around the world has been launched.

The free interactive website identifies places in more than 50 malaria-endemic countries where mosquitoes have become resistant to the insecticides used in bed nets and indoor sprays.

IR Mapper was launched last month (25 April) by Vestergaard Frandsen, a Swiss firm that makes disease-control products, and the KEMRI/CDC research and public health collaboration based in Kenya.

Tessa Knox, a technical specialist at Vestergaard Frandsen, tells SciDev.Net that the website has both historical and current data on insecticide resistance in mosquitoes.

"Users will access the interactive map to explore data and to generate tailored maps," she says. "The website consolidates all public information on insecticide resistance in malaria vectors."

The data were extracted from scientific articles and reports as well as from IRBase, an existing database of insecticide resistance.

There is a wealth of information on insecticide resistance in different databases and the volume is increasing rapidly, making it difficult to harmonise and interpret this data.

The new website, says Knox, combines all the information in a timely manner and presents it in a user-friendly format.

The tool already contains published data on insecticide-susceptibility and resistance mechanisms going back to 1959. Further, additional comprehensive data to fill gaps will be added each month once it has been extracted by a researcher and passed a quality check carried out by KEMRI/CDC.

Although the site is accessible to all, most users are likely to be decision-makers for mosquito-control strategies and policies, research scientists and those involved in vector-control product development, Knox says.

"IR Mapper, in line with recommendations by the WHO, helps to inform the development and deployment of vector-control tools, guide the development of insecticide-resistance management plans, prioritise areas for insecticide-resistance monitoring, identify sites for operational research and earmark areas for distribution of novel tools," she says.

"Since IR Mapper provides a one-stop shop for researchers to identify the existing status of knowledge on insecticide resistance in their focus areas, vector-control programmes are now armed with easy-to-access information to support evidence-based decisions," says Knox.

Willis Akhwale, head of the Disease Control Department at Kenya's Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation, says the tool marks a big stride forward in the fight against malaria, one of Sub-Saharan Africa's deadliest diseases.

He says the tool will inform the policymaking process and interventions that should be taken.

"It will be a valuable resource for policymakers, researchers and health workers in understanding the genetic make-up of the mosquitoes that makes them become resistant to insecticides," he says.

Link to IR Mapper

This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa news desk.

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