Gardening can be a powerful weapon against malaria. Here’s how.
A recent study has revealed some startling facts. You can remove a certain types of plants and invasive shrub from the garden to prevent breeding of mosquitoes. This is the simplest way to reduce malaria and other mosquito-borne disease transmission. Removing certain flowers from villages in Mali has substantially decreased the local mosquito vector population by nearly 60% according to a study in the Bandiagra Disctrict in Mali.
The lead author of the study Gunter Muller from Hebrew University Hadassah Medical School says, “Mosquitoes obtain most of their energy needs from plant sugars taken from the nectar of flowers so we wanted to test the effect removing the flowers of the shrub Prosopis juliflora would have on local mosquito vector populations."
Muller added, "Our results show that removal of this particular shrub reduces total population levels of mosquitoes and reduces the number of older female mosquitoes in the population, which are known to transmit malaria parasites to humans. This suggests that removal of the flowers could be a new way to shift inherently high malaria transmission areas to low transmission areas, making elimination more feasible."
The study stressed on the elimination of the flowers of the invasive shrub Prosopis juliflora which is native to Central and South America but was later introduced to the new areas in late 1970’s and early 80’s. It was done to reduce deforestation. Prosopis juliflora is a robust plant that grows rapidly and has become one of the worst invasive plants in many parts of the world. The shrub occupies millions of hectares on the African continent including countries like Mali, Chad, Niger, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya.
Light traps to catch mosquitoes were set up across nine villages in the Bandiagra District, six of which were home to flowering Prosopis juliflora and three that had no presence of the shrub. After a first round of analysis was conducted to assess mosquito populations, the researchers cut all the flowering branches from Prosopis juliflora in three of the six infested villages, before setting up light traps to determine the effect removal of the shrub had on mosquito vector populations.
The researchers found that villages where they removed the flowers saw mosquito numbers collected in the traps fall from an average of 11 to 4.5 for females, and 6 to 0.7 for male mosquitoes. The total number of mosquitoes across these villages decreased by nearly 60% after removal of the flowers. After flower removal, the number of older more dangerous vector females in the population dropped to levels similar to those recorded in the villages that had no presence of the shrub. Villages infested with Prosopis juliflora also had a higher proportion of mosquitoes with a sugar meal in their gut, which enhances their survival. This proportion was reduced 5-fold following removal of the flowers.
According to the experts, it may be useful to refrain from the introduction of exotic plants that can be invasive at a time, not only this will create negative impacts on environment and livelihoods, but it can impact the public health drastically by spreading malaria.
(With ANI Inputs)
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