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Newly spotted mosquito may spread malaria

Published : 03 Jul 2020, 02:53

Updated : 03 Jul 2020, 10:22

  DF Report

Anopheles daciae. Press release photo by University of Helsinki/Lorna Culverwell.

Anopheles daciae, a species previously not known to be in Finland was spotted in several locations in the south of the country, according to a study of the University of Helsinki.

The species is very closely related to known malaria vectors, it is assumed also to be capable of transmitting malaria, said the university in a press release quoting the study findings.

According to Lorna Culverwell, a doctoral student at the university, information on the distribution of mosquito species that transmit any pathogens, including malaria, is important, particularly as the climate is warming.

Anopheles daciae, which was only described as a species in 2004, belongs to the Anopheles maculipennis complex – a group of visually identical but distinct species of which three species have previously been found in Finland.

The species in this complex may be identical in appearance, but the differences can be seen when their DNAs are sequenced.

Anopheles messeae, another species included in the complex, is the primary mosquito species responsible for transmitting malaria in Europe. It is assumed that this species was responsible for transmitting malaria until the 1950’s, when malaria declined in Finland.

“As malaria is not currently endemic in Finland, there is no reason to panic at this finding. However, the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated that we have to be prepared for all public health eventualities,” said Culverwell.

“From the perspective of preventing and controlling mosquito-borne pathogens, such as malaria, Sindbis virus (Pogosta disease), or Usutu virus, we need to have basic knowledge of the mosquito species prevailing in Finland, their distribution and which disease-causing pathogens each species can potentially transmit. Such knowledge provides the framework for future disease-control measures,” she added.

The mosquitoes studied in the survey were collected from across Finland between 2013 and 2018, most of them by Culverwell.

Anopheles daciae or Anopheles messeae, potential malaria transmitters, were found in the regions of Uusimaa, Varsinais-Suomi, Kymenlaakso, Kanta-Häme, Pirkanmaa, Pohjois-Pohjanmaa, Päijät-Häme, Satakunta and Åland.