The United Nations has projected that sub-Saharan Africa will become the world’s most populated of the eight geographical SDG areas by 2062. The increased population inevitably leads to an increase in housing demand. Why is this relevant in the fight to eradicate malaria?
There is growing evidence that house design can decrease the incidence of malaria infection. Given that 80% of malaria-related mosquito bites in Africa occur indoors at night, preventing mosquitoes from getting indoors is a simple way of protecting people.
Since most mosquitoes fly low to the ground, a team of researchers at Durham University decided to test the hypothesis that raising a house off the ground would make it harder for malaria mosquitoes to locate their targets. The findings of the study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface reveal that the number of female An. gambiae mosquitoes collected in the four experimental huts decreased progressively as the hut floors were raised further from the ground.
Researchers collaborated with a team of architects and builders from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation. They constructed four experimental huts in Wellingara Village in the Central River Region of The Gambia, each of which could be raised or lowered. Each hut was moved from ground level to 1m, 2m and 3m on a weekly basis resulting in each hut being at one of the heights for 10 nights during the 40 day study period. At night, mosquitoes were collected with light traps inside all of the huts where two men slept under separate mosquito nets.
The data revealed that huts with floors 3m above the ground had 84% fewer mosquitoes than those on the ground. The authors postulate that if this reduction correlates to a similar reduction in malaria transmission, it would be comparable to that of an insecticide-treated net (which can reduce malaria transmission by 40-90%). The researchers suggested that these results could be due to the fact that mosquitoes have evolved to find humans on the ground, and rapid dispersion of carbon dioxide plumes by the wind at higher elevations make it more difficult for mosquitoes to find a person to bite.
Although further investigation is required to overcome study limitations and determine scalability, the findings promise an interesting and innovative approach to malaria elimination.