Malaria, the leading cause of death among children in
Africa, could be eliminated if three-fourths of the population used insecticide-treated
bed nets, according to a new study from the National Institute for Mathematical
and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS).
The study, which uses a mathematical model, found that use
of insecticide-treated bed nets or ITNs positively affected the infection's
reproduction number, or R, which is the primary epidemiological number used to
determine the degree which a disease can spread through a population.
The model concludes that if 75% of the population were to
use ITNs, malaria could be eliminated.
How the study was
The treated mosquito net forms a protective barrier around
people sleeping under them. The insecticide not only kills the mosquitoes,
which carry the malaria parasite, and other insects, it also repels mosquitoes,
reducing the number that enter the house and attempt to feed on people inside.
With ITNs, the number of mosquitoes, as well as their length
of life, is reduced, which is why the density of nets in a community is
Overcoming cultural resistance to using bed nets in
communities where people view the nets as intrusive has been a major challenge
of international malaria prevention agencies, however.
There is evidence also that in some countries more bed nets
go to the rich than the poor. Health groups are devising strategies to
encourage use of the bed nets and to make sure they are distributed more
"Based on the results, it's clear that educational
campaigns around the use of bed-nets must continue as the nets play a critical
role in reducing the transmission of malaria," said Folashade Agusto, the
study's lead author and participant in the NIMBioS Investigative Workshop on
Malaria Modeling and Control, whose other participants co-authored the study.
A former NIMBioS
postdoctoral fellow, Agusto is an assistant professor of mathematics at Austin
Peay State University.
Malaria has already been eradicated in Europe, North
America, the Caribbean, and parts of Asia and South-Central America, and yet,
the World Health Organisation estimates that every year 250 million people
become infected with malaria and nearly one million die.