Research Topic

Malaria in East African Highlands: Impact of Environmental Changes

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Out of the total human population in Africa, 15% live in highlands i.e. defined as areas 1,500 m above sea level where the mean annual temperature used to be in the range of 16-19°C. Historically, these areas have been considered free malaria incidence because malaria transmission cannot take place below ...

Out of the total human population in Africa, 15% live in highlands i.e. defined as areas 1,500 m above sea level where the mean annual temperature used to be in the range of 16-19°C. Historically, these areas have been considered free malaria incidence because malaria transmission cannot take place below 18°C. However, several major malaria epidemics have been reported during 1990s and 2000s. For example, in western Kenya highland alone, malaria outbreaks have been reported at more than 20 highland sites. The WHO estimated in 2003 that malaria epidemics kill 110,000 people each year and 110 million people are at risk in Africa highlands.

The highlands of east Africa has the world's highest population growth rate and considered one of the most populated regions in Africa i.e. the population densities ranged between 158 persons/km2 in Ethiopia and 410 persons/km2 in Rwanda. This demographic pressure of poor populations have included in an extensive unprecedented land use and land cover changes such as modification of bushland, woodland, and grassland on hillsides and transformation of papyrus swamps in valley bottoms to farmland. Loss reported in forest areas ranged between 8000 ha in Rwanda to 2,838,000 ha in Ethiopia. These unmitigated environmental changes led to rise temperature and spread of malaria transmission.

Others climatic events can also cause local temperatures to shift above the 18°C threshold creating suitable malaria transmission conditions. For example, the 1997–8 El Niño was associated with 4°C anomalies in the mean monthly maximum temperatures, which would have driven the 18°C mean temperature to 22°C. Concurrent with heavy rainfall, this event caused server malaria epidemics in the East African highlands
Such review is important to understand malaria ecology in the highlands of East Africa and help malaria control authorities to optimize human activities and available interventions to continue allowing both development needs and tackle the disease under programmatic settings. This Research Topic is intended to understand the role and update on the ongoing changes in different environmental and ecological aspects that related or associated with malaria transmission of the highlands. Original scientific work and review papers are most welcome but not limited to:
- Lessons learned from history of malaria epidemics in East African highlands,
- Current situation of malaria transmission in East African highlands,
- Understanding the impact of land use and land cover changes on vectors distribution, parasite transmission i.e. shortening the gonotrophic cycle, parasite cycle development, increasing the survival rate of the vectors, spreading breeding habitats and increasing breeding sites productivity,
- Understanding the role of topography in occurrences of malaria epidemics in East African highland.
- Ongoing shifting in species composition and vectors distribution,
- Current status of larval source management (LSM) and others vectors control tools.
- Understanding the role of El Niño event and establishing an early warning system to predict malaria epidemic in East Africa highlands,
- Impact of global warming on malaria transmission in East Africa highlands.


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