Discovery of a new malaria vector in South Africa – not linked to reported Odyssean malaria cases

14 March 2017

A recent scientific publication focused on the identification of a new malaria vector in South Africa.  Two adult females of the mosquito species Anopheles vaneedeni, one collected in Mpumalanga Province and another from northern KwaZulu-Natal Province, were identified in a study conducted a year ago, to be infected with Plasmodium sporozoites.

This means that they were able to transmit the malaria parasites to people they fed on. Anopheles vaneedeni was shown to be capable of transmitting malaria 40 years ago in laboratory experiments, but until now has not been found infected in natural populations. This particular finding is interesting and important but the extent of the contribution of this mosquito vector on malaria transmission in South Africa is not known at present. Bear in mind that in the intervening 40 years South Africa has, for the most part, implemented a very successful malaria control programme.
The above finding bears no relationship to the current seasonal increase in malaria cases, including the cases in Tshwane and North West Province and the increase in cases in Lephalale/Thabazimbi in Limpopo Province (see below).  The timing of the A. vaneedeni publication coincided by chance with the reported malaria cases but the events are not linked. This research finding, however, needs further exploration to assess ,  the extent of the contribution of this species to malaria transmission in South Africa and what effect (if any at all), in South Africa this may have on longer-term malaria elimination strategies.  There is absolutely no link at all.