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Malaria in Ethiopia, Jerusalem and Zanzibar

February 5, 2014 - 21:17 -- William Jobin

Malaria in Ethiopia, Jerusalem and Zanzibar

Eighth African Malaria Dialogue – Boston University USA 31 January 2014

Our informal African Malaria Dialogues started in the summer of 2012, meeting quarterly on the East Coast of the US in order to encourage interdisciplinary field research on African malaria. The dialogues are informally organized and participants cover their own costs for travel and meals. All are invited, and our next Dialogue will be in the Spring.

Please let me know if you wish to come. I will put you on our list.

For our 8th Dialogue, a group of faculty, students, malariologists and malaria historians met at Boston University Friday morning for a leisurely dialogue and informal luncheon, discussing:

1) malaria issues related to agriculture in Ethiopia
2) the December 2013 Declaration from Jerusalem on Malaria Elimination in Africa
3) mosquito repellent development
4) recent policy and personnel developments in WHO and the Gates Foundation.
5) two books expected to be published soon on the history of malaria in Africa were previewed - “Deposing the Malevolent Spirit: Ethiopia and the Struggle against Malaria, 1770-2013” on the history of malaria in Ethiopia by Jim McCann of Boston University, and
6) “The Long Struggle Against Malaria in Tropical Africa” (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014) by Jim Webb of Colby College.


The primary discussion Friday morning was about a summary of two-years of field research in Ethiopia conducted by Jim McCann, Tony Kiszewski and Rich Pollack on the relation of agriculture and malaria. (The Agroecology of Malaria: Maize, Mosquitoes, and Dynamic Landscape Change in Ethiopia, by James C. McCann, Richard J. Pollack, Anthony E. Kiszewski, Rachel Nalepa, and Andrew Spielman. The publication is available from the BU website: .

Their two-year field study began in northwestern Ethiopia after a severe outbreak of malaria in the area, assumed to be related to the cultivation of maize (corn). It was assumed that this outbreak was related to the impact of maize pollen on survival of anopheline larvae in borrow pits and other temporary water bodies near the maize fields. However two years of monitoring larvae in borrow pits did not show a consistent effect from the pollen.

Previously in 1998, a large outbreak of malaria in the region had been related to expanded cultivation of maize. Over a decade later, this field study by McCann et al found that subsequent agricultural and economic development had resulted in drastic changes in infrastructure, irrigation and drainage patterns, but without relation to outbreaks in malaria.

Two years of detailed monitoring of borrow pits showed large seasonal changes in their ecology. Of 82 pits identified initially in August 2011, only 19 still had water by December. About 90% of adult mosquitoes came from larvae hatching out of the borrow pits, primarily Anopheles arabiensis. There was heavy predation on the anophelines by other insects in the borrow pits. Over the study period there were shifts in the anopheline species, with Anopheles coustani becoming numerous. A detailed report on the study was released at the meeting.

As a final note, in a short discussion of the draft Jerusalem Declaration (produced after a December meeting sponsored by the Dutch Malaria Foundation and Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and the intent of the sponsors to promote a field demonstration on the economic value of species elimination on one of the Zanzibar islands, it was pointed out that not only can islands be used for projects involving species elimination, but that there are other “ecological islands” in the tropics which might be used in the same way. The lack of re-invasions after decades of previous elimination of certain anopheline species from Brazil and from Egypt and other African countries on the northern edge of the Sahara desert were cited as examples.


Bill Jobin
African Malaria Dialogue
508 695 6601