[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Medical entomologists increasingly recognize that the ability to make inferences between laboratory experiments of vector biology and epidemiological trends observed in the field is hindered by a conceptual and methodological gap occurring between these approaches which prevents hypothesis-driven empirical research from being conducted on relatively large and environmentally realistic scales. The development of Semi-Field Systems (SFS) has been proposed as the best mechanism for bridging this gap. Semi-field systems are defined as enclosed environments, ideally situated within the natural ecosystem of a target disease vector and exposed to ambient environmental conditions, in which all features necessary for its life cycle completion are present. Although the value of SFS as a research tool for malaria vector biology is gaining recognition, only a few such facilities exist worldwide and are relatively small in size (< 100 m2).
The establishment of a 625 m2 state-of-the-art SFS for large-scale experimentation on anopheline mosquito ecology and control within a rural area of southern Tanzania, where malaria transmission intensities are amongst the highest ever recorded, is described.
A greenhouse frame with walls of mosquito netting and a polyethylene roof was mounted on a raised concrete platform at the Ifakara Health Institute. The interior of the SFS was divided into four separate work areas that have been set up for a variety of research activities including mass-rearing for African malaria vectors under natural conditions, high throughput evaluation of novel mosquito control and trapping techniques, short-term assays of host-seeking behaviour and olfaction, and longer-term experimental investigation of anopheline population dynamics and gene flow within a contained environment that simulates a local village domestic setting.
The SFS at Ifakara was completed and ready for use in under two years. Preliminary observations indicate that realistic and repeatable observations of anopheline behaviour are obtainable within the SFS, and that habitat and climatic features representative of field conditions can be simulated within it. As work begins in the SFS in Ifakara and others around the world, the major opportunities and challenges to the successful application of this tool for malaria vector research and control are discussed.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Biological control of malaria mosquitoes in Africa has rarely been used in vector control programs. Recent developments in this field show that certain fungi are virulent to adult Anopheles mosquitoes. Practical delivery of an entomopathogenic fungus that infected and killed adult Anopheles gambiae, Africa's main malaria vector, was achieved in rural African village houses. An entomological inoculation rate model suggests that implementation of this vector control method, even at the observed moderate coverage during a field study in Tanzania, would significantly reduce malaria transmission intensity.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The recent development of transgenic mosquitoes that are resistant to infection by the Plasmodium malarial parasite is a promising new tool in the fight against malaria. However, results of large-scale field releases of alternatively modified mosquitoes carried out during the 1970s and 1980s suggest that this approach could be difficult to implement in the field. These past attempts to control mosquito populations largely floundered as a result of our insufficient understanding of the behavioural ecology of released males. In spite of this, contemporary research on genetic control strategies has concentrated predominantly on molecular aspects, with little progress being made toward resolving key ecological uncertainties, male mosquito ecology being the most important. Here, we review the state of knowledge of male mosquito ecology, and highlight priorities for further research. Case studies of two crop pests, the Mediterranean fruit fly and melon fly, are given as examples of how knowledge of male ecology facilitates successful control in other species. Unless similar information becomes available for mosquitoes, any future genetic control strategy will risk failure.