Modeling Malaria – getting a handle on vectors

Models represent reality but the closer they come to reality, they better they are at helping us plan.  A session at the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene yesterday addressed the modeling process for vector control.

VECNet is developing the capacity to take data from multiple sources to tailor vector populations and behavior to local situations. Such models need to consider vector bionomics/population variables, weather/climate/environment, and effectiveness of deployed vector control strategies.

a-stephensi-map-project-2.jpgModelers encourage us to think beyond existing malaria control strategies and consider a varierty of mosquitoe behaviors beyond direct feeding on humans and immediate resting thereafter. Such understandings can lead us to ask whether new interventions could be directed at other vector bevahiors such as …

  • laying eggs (oviposition)
  • feeding on sugars
  • seeking hosts
  • mating
  • resting generally

In short, we were challenged to look at aspects of vector biology that have been ignored or unknown in the past.

nga_gambiae_ss-sm.pngThe MAP project out of Oxford is also beginning detailed mapping of vectors by region and utlimately my country.  Globally there are 41 dominant vector species, so the work ahead is immense, but some mapping has started with three in a program called Risk Mapper.

The session also included product impact estimation. This should help program planners decide on hypothetical outcomes of investments in different existing interventions and even consider possible outcomes were new interventions developed to address the other aspects of mosquito behavior outlined above – e.g. traps, repellents.

The modeling process requires a lot of data that needs to be updated as control interventions proceed. Such data requires a strong corps of entomologists and health information systems staff that many countries lack.  Hopefully modeling efforts will also include these elements of human resource development.

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