Adult anopheline ecology and malaria transmission in irrigated areas of South Punjab, Pakistan

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Surface irrigation in the Punjab province of Pakistan has been carried out on a large scale since the development of the Indus Basin Irrigation System in the late 19th century. The objective of our study was to understand how the population dynamics of adult anopheline mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) could be related to malaria transmission in rural areas with intensive irrigation and a history of malaria epidemics. In this paper we present our observations from three villages located along an irrigation canal in South Punjab. The study was carried out from 1 April 1999 to 31 March 2000. Mosquitoes were collected from bedrooms using the pyrethroid spraycatch method and from vegetation and animal sheds using backpack aspirators. Overall, Anopheles subpictus Grassi sensu lato predominated (55.6%), followed by An. stephensi Liston s.l. (41.4%), An. culicifacies Giles s.l. (2.0%), An. pulcherrimus Theobald (1.0%) and An. peditaeniatus Leicester (0.1%). Most mosquitoes (98.8%) were collected from indoor resting-sites whereas collections from potential resting-sites outdoors accounted for only 1.2% of total anopheline densities, confirming the endophilic behaviour of anophelines in Pakistan. Anopheles stephensi, An. culicifacies and An. subpictus populations peaked in August, September and October, respectively. High temperatures and low rainfall negatively affected seasonal abundance in our area. There were interesting differences in anopheline fauna between villages, with An. culicifacies occurring almost exclusively in the village at the head of the irrigation canal, where waterlogged and irrigated fields prevailed. Monthly house-to-house fever surveys showed that malaria transmission remained low with an overall slide positivity rate of 2.4% and all cases were due to infection with Plasmodium vivax. The most plausible explanation for low transmission in our study area seems to be the low density of Pakistan's primary malaria vector, An. culicifacies. The role of other species such as An. stephensi is not clear. Our observations indicate that, in South Punjab, irrigation-related sites support the breeding of anopheline mosquitoes, including the vectors of malaria. As our study was carried out during a year with exceptionally hot and dry climatic conditions, densities and longevity of mosquitoes would probably be higher in other years and could result in more significant malaria transmission than we observed. To assess the overall importance of irrigation-related sites in the epidemiology of malaria in the Punjab, more studies are needed to compare irrigated and non-irrigated areas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMedical & Veterinary Entomology
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)141-52
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Keywords: Animals; Anopheles; Climate; Female; Humans; Insect Vectors; Malaria, Vivax; Pakistan; Plasmodium vivax; Prevalence; Questionnaires; Rural Population; Seasons

ID: 9950637