By Gift Briton

In an effort to eliminate and reduce the spread of vector-borne diseases, the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), has developed several sustainable tools and strategies capable of controlling vectors and breaking transmission cycles for some of these diseases.

According to icipe 2022 report, over three million cattle succumb to African animal trypanosomosis every year. However, diagnosing the disease remains a challenge. The current diagnostic strategies are technical, costly, and often inaccessible to many livestock keepers. This has left a high proportion of the infections either undetected or misdiagnosed with lack of treatment or wrong therapies leading to livestock deaths, and in the latter case, drug resistance.

Thus, icipe has identified compounds known as ionones in the urine of cows, whose production is specifically stimulated by trypanosome infections, as the predictive biomarkers of African animal trypanosomosis disease. Therefore, through a simple urine test administered even by livestock keepers, it is possible to confirm whether an animal has the disease.

Moreover, following the 2020 path-breaking discovery of a microorganism (Microsporidia MB) in Anopheles mosquitos, which is capable of blocking malaria transmission from insects to people, icipe has moved forward to develop a cost-effective and rapid method to detect Microsporidia MB, tools to investigate, model and predict its levels in the field, and to provide foresight for malaria disease incidences.

By 2022, the scientists had determined the diversity of Microsporidia MB strains in Anopheles mosquito species in Kenya, characteristics associated with the high efficiency of the microorganism in blocking the transmission of the malaria parasite, and the environmental factors that drive their fluctuations.

The scientists have also noted changes in the composition of malaria-transmitting Anopheles species and their behavior, including resting and biting habits. According to icipe, other than gene mutations that make mosquitoes resistant to insecticides, outdoor biting by malaria-causing mosquitoes has also become one of the major contributing factors to residual malaria transmission.

As a result, the scientists have recommended mainstreaming house screening and dry season application of biological insecticides that kill mosquito larvae, into national malaria control strategies and strengthening community and stakeholder participation in Integrated Vector Management programs as well as adopting a multi-sectoral approach and strategies for behavior change.

Icipe made another significant contribution in controlling the spread of Leishmaniasis, when the Centre trained health workers, sensitized the community sensitization, and did a comprehensive population screening for Leishmaniasis, medical camps, and establishment of new treatment facilities following the 2022 outbreak of the disease in Kajiado County, Kenya.

Also, in 2022 during the yellow fever outbreak in Kenya, icipe in collaboration with the government, participated in planning the response activities and conducted surveys of mosquito vectors in the response sites to assess the disease ecology and establish the potential vectors that may have been involved in its transmission.

Research is ongoing to determine the existence and locality of yellow fever transmission in focal points in Kenya and at the border with endemic countries and to assess the presence of mosquito vector species and their potential to transmit the disease as well as to evaluate the risks of yellow fever and dengue fever transmission.

The scientists are also implementing one health approach in western and coastal Kenya as a model for simultaneous control of insect vectors of diseases that affect people and animals, where testing of novel products and strategies, including developing an environmentally friendly bio-pesticide for a range of vectors has been done.