Fly on the wall? Modern housing is associated with reduced malaria risk in sub-Saharan Africa

Fly on the wall? Modern housing is associated with reduced malaria risk in sub-Saharan Africa

Around 90 percent of cases of malaria, a parasitic disease spread by mosquitoes, occur in sub-Saharan Africa. Bed nets treated with insecticide are a well-known preventative measure and have been effective in reducing malaria prevalence in this region. However, mosquito resistance to insecticides is increasing, so new approaches are needed.

Lucy Tusting of the University of Oxford, U.K., and colleagues were interested in housing improvements as a possible method of tackling malaria. They investigated the association between malaria prevalence and housing types using survey data collected from 21 African countries over seven years. The researchers compared young children living in modern houses, made of metal roofs and finished walls, with children in traditional thatched houses, to calculate the proportion in each group that had malaria detectable in their blood.

They found that, compared to traditional houses, modern houses were associated with a more than 9 percent reduction overall in the proportion of children with detectable malaria. Depending on the specific survey, the proportion of children with malaria ranged up to 45.5 percent for modern housing, compared with up to 70.6 percent for traditional housing. The reduction may occur because modern homes are more effective at blocking mosquitoes from entering and transmitting malaria to the occupants.

The authors note that the housing style will have less impact in locations where outdoor malaria transmission is common. Nonetheless, this study suggests that good housing could be an important preventative tool for tackling malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.

Research Article: Tusting LS, Bottomley C, Gibson H, Kleinschmidt I, Tatem AJ, Lindsay SW, et al. (2017) Housing Improvements and Malaria Risk in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Multi-Country Analysis of Survey Data. PLoS Med 14(2): e1002234. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1002234

Image Credit:  Rebecca Hardgrave, Flickr


Beth works at PLOS as Journal Media Manager. She read Natural Sciences, specializing in Pathology, at the University of Cambridge before joining PLOS in 2013. She feels fortunate to be able to read and write about the exciting new research published by PLOS.

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