Friday, October 30, 2020
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By Divine Ntaryike Jr — Tourism promoters in Cameroon fondly refer to the country as “Africa in Miniature.” The 475,440 square-kilometer territory, fourteen times as big as the Netherlands, boasts of nearly all the climatic and topographical features found elsewhere across Africa. 

From the tropical rain forests on the shores of the Atlantic through the midland mountains and savannahs to the Sahel desert in the north, Cameroon ranks high as one of Africa’s most geographically diverse countries.  But entomologists now posit the environmental variations boosting the country’s status as a tourism destination are a growing cause for concern.

Officials at the National Malaria Control Program, NMCP say Cameroon’s assorted ecology broadens the range of suitable habitats for a variety of disease vector species.  They say the country is home to as much as 48 of the 140 known species of anopheline mosquitoes incriminated in malaria transmission; though only five of them [Anopheles gambiae, Anopheles funestus, Anopheles arabienses, Anopheles nili and Anopheles moucheti] are responsible for over 95 percent of overall malaria spread. 

According to the experts, detailed knowledge of the factors influencing the geographical distribution of species and their levels of resistance to roll back efforts like insecticide use will be crucial in optimizing vector control tactics. 

“There’s a diversity of vector species whose behaviors need to be better understood to help us elaborate better strategies.  Understanding the entomological profiles of the mosquitoes will enable us determine the most appropriate insecticides for particular regions based on sensibility tests we are undertaking,” Dr Etienne Fondjo, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the NMCP explained.

Fondjo and colleagues are documenting the reactions of the five major malaria vectors to the most commonly used insecticides across Cameroon including organochlorine [DDT], bendiocarb, malathion, and pyrethroids [deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin and permethrin].  They have, for example, observed strong resistance to all the insecticides by Anopheles gambiae in the equatorial forest zones of the south. 

“Our findings will greatly compliment ongoing control efforts.  Today, the approach is to integrate all strategies proven to be effective.  The government has been insisting on treated bednets, but we must acknowledge that the mosquitoes react differently to the insecticides contained in them and so we must use different insecticides for different parts of the country,” Fondjo added.

In 2011, the government engaged a massive nationwide campaign to freely distribute 8.6 million treated bednets.  Fondjo says vector resistance to insecticides must be taken into account in similar efforts in the future to ensure optimal results.  He adds the Program is also proposing regular spraying of high-risk neighborhoods across the country as another mosquito combat approach.

Meantime, the Ministry of Public Health reports relative drops in the incidence of malaria, currently ranked the country’s leading cause of mortality and morbidity.  Malaria accounted for 36 percent of all hospital consultations in 2010, down from 41 percent in 2008.  Malaria-related mortality also slumped from 29 percent in 2009 to 24 percent in 2011, but experts the fight must be stepped up.