KEMRI announces malaria scare as invasive mosquito species detected

KEMRI has now said that Kenya is facing a new challenge in its fight against malaria as researchers have detected a new mosquito species that can transmit the disease in both urban and rural areas.

The species, known as Anopheles stephensi, was previously found only in South-East Asia, the Middle East, and Arabian Peninsula, but has been expanding its geographic range over the last decade.

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) and the Ministry of Health announced on Sunday that they have confirmed the presence of Anopheles stephensi in Laisamis and Saku sub-counties of Marsabit County in Northern region of Kenya.

The samples were collected during a routine mosquito surveillance exercise conducted by KEMRI’s Entomology Research team together with colleagues from the Ministry’s Division of National Malaria Programme (DNMP).

According to KEMRI Acting Director General Sam Kariuki, Anopheles stephensi poses a serious threat that could reverse the gains made in the fight against malaria. He said that unlike the traditional malaria-causing mosquitoes such as Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles funfests, Anopheles stephensi is not only invasive and can spread very fast to new areas, but also adaptive to different climatic and environmental conditions.

“Anopheles stephensi is unique as it thrives in man-made containers such as jury cans, tyres, open tanks, sewers, cisterns, overhead tanks. and underground tanks and in polluted environments,” he said.

He added that KEMRI and the Ministry of Health have put in place efforts to conduct further research activities on this new vector. He also urged Kenyans to take preventive measures such as sleeping under insecticide-treated bednets and seeking prompt diagnosis and treatment if they experience any symptoms of malaria.

Kenya has been recognized for its progress in digitalizing its national health programmes for malaria control. President William Ruto recently received an award from African Leaders Malaria Alliance (ALMA) during an AU summit.


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